How is technology changing your non-profit organization?

The School Bus Won’t Wait

By John Greco
Originally published on May 21, 2012
Re-posted with permission from johnponders blog

Pensive Businessman Using LaptopDavid was a tenured college professor.  While an expert in his field, he knew very little about computers; just enough in fact to get on a network and ask for help.  Fortunately, a more experienced user came to his aid, never failing to give just the right advice.

One morning, when a vexing problem was plaguing him, his expert advisor who had been on-line with him for over an hour, said, “I’ve got to go.”  David pleaded with him, “You can’t leave me, we’ve almost found the solution.”

Across the electronic world came the next sentence:  “You don’t understand, my school bus won’t wait for me.” 

David thought for a moment, his curiosity mounting, “How old are you?” he asked.

“I’m twelve,” was the response on his screen, “and I’ll talk to you later.”

Source:  Community Building:  Renewing Spirit and Learning, Edited by Kazimierz Gozdz, (c) 1995.

A few short years ago, we couldn’t have even imagined such a scenario.  In the past, proximity and commonality brought us together.  We had family and close friends; help came from familiar places.

Today, help can come from anywhere, from anyone, at any time, on anything.  Help can come from the most unlikely people.  And from the most unlikely places.

A twelve year old across the globe can help a college professor.

There is great potential in the invisible network of an electronic community, no?   Technology is enabling us to connect like never before, opening up possibilities like never before.

We can pretty clearly see the upside for problem solving and innovation, speed and progress, quality and quantity of work.

But just think of the possibilities for changing our attitudes; our prejudices and biases; of slowly dissolving bigotry, and discrimination; and racism, sexism, ageism …

Even the possibilities for relationships!  Today, my son can play an online, real-time game with like-minded people from all across the world, and in so doing, develop a friendship with a girl a thousand miles away that has real meaning.

Gives new meaning to “the girl next door” doesn’t it?  She can now be here, there, anywhere!

I can imagine a lot, but I can’t imagine what life will be like 100 years from now.  You and I will never know.  Even my mom’s upcoming fourth great-grandchild may not know.

I wonder who my mom’s fourth great-grandchild will have as friends and family?  It certainly does suggest a different slant on “extended family” …

And I wonder who will be helping my mom’s fourth great-grandchild when she is an aging professional seeking help with the emerging technology of that time?

Technology.  Adapting to change.  And possibility.

As I age, and as technology advances, it is likely I will start falling behind.  It is already happening.  I have a cell phone that I only use to make telephone calls.  :-)

And I already see that I’m not adapting fast enough to keep pace with the innovations.  The technology school bus isn’t waiting for me!

But, as I age, I hope I can keep seeing the possibility.  I will likely need help with this.  I hope I can stay open-minded and aware enough to know that my mom’s fourth great-grandchild’s help will only be a click or two away.

Here’s hoping she can help me before she needs to leave for school!
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Organizational Development Fridays are back!

Fridays at DonorDreams blog used to be called “Organizational Development Fridays” (aka OD Fridays). I would read a blog post from my favorite OD professional and blogger in the world — John Greco — and apply his message to something I’ve seen or experienced in the non-profit sector.
At the end of October, John announced to the world that he needed to take a break from blogging at “johnponders~ about life at work, mostly” because there is too much going on in his life right now. Fridays haven’t been the same around here since that announcement.
However, in the spirit of capacity building and organizational development, John recently agreed to let me re-blog the best of the best of his original posts. We decided that this wouldn’t be too repetitive based on WordPress analytics. Apparently, most DonorDreams readers only read my Friday posts and didn’t click-through to John’s originals. So, re-blogging John’s posts should be new and refreshing to many of you.
Organizational development is equally applicable to for-profits and non-profits alike. I encourage you to tune in every Friday, read John’s OD post, and think about how it applies to your non-profit agency. As always, I encourage you to then use the comment box to share your thoughts and experiences because we can all learn from each other. Enjoy!

Don’t Climb That Pole!

By John Greco
Re-posted with permission from
Originally published on February 26, 2012

Four monkeys were put into a room.   In the center of the room was a tall pole with a bunch of bananas suspended from the top.  
monkey2One particularly hungry monkey eagerly scampered up the pole, intent on retrieving a banana.  Just as he reached out to grasp the banana, he was hit with a torrent of cold water from an overhead shower.  With a squeal, the monkey abandoned its quest and retreated down the pole. 
Each monkey attempted, in turn, to secure a banana.  Each received an equally chilly shower, and each scampered down without the prize. After repeated drenchings, the monkeys finally gave up on the bananas. 
With the primates thus conditioned, one of the original four was removed from the experiment and a new monkey added.  No sooner had this new, innocent monkey started up the pole his companions reached up and yanked the surprised creature back down.
After a few such aborted attempts, but without ever having received the cold shower, the new monkey stopped trying to get the bananas. He got the message: don’t climb that pole!
One by one, each of the original monkeys was replaced.  Each new monkey learned the same lesson: don’t climb that pole; none even got so far as a cold shower.  
Despite not experiencing the cold shower, and therefore not understanding precisely why pole climbing was discouraged, they all respected the well-established precedent. 
Even after the shower was removed, no monkey ventured up the pole …
[Author unknown, but greatly appreciated!  If you or anyone you know has a proprietary interest in this story please authenticate and I will be happy to credit, or remove, as appropriate.]

When we speak of a company’s culture, what do we mean?  To me culture refers to the values, norms, and patterns of behavior that groups of people adopt and/or develop as they work.  Or, more simply: “the way we do things around here.”
Where does culture come from?  I try to keep it simple: culture comes from what we learn and understand as being “normal” and/or important …
A more elaborate exploration would talk about the influence of the leader(s), how the values, biases, and preferences of influential leaders get translated into company or departmental policies and management practices, and how eventually they become commonplace in the fabric of the interactions of all employees.
monkey1We, like our monkey friends, become conditioned.  Don’t climb that pole! we learn, when we see what happens to those that do … Then we teach don’t climb that pole! to the newcomers we welcome into the organization, telling the story of what happened to our ambitious co-worker Moe when he climbed that pole it was like a cold shower stopped him right in his tracks! … We learn that we don’t need to climb the pole; we are growing sales and driving profits without climbing the pole; it over time becomes an afterthought, except of course to orient the new talent; and there comes a time when a newbie asks“Why don’t we climb the pole?”and we’re all kind of stumped “dunno; it’s just the way we do things around here!”
Culture is a curious thing; early on, it develops into a strong positive force, uniting people in the pursuit of common goals with normalized behaviors.  Frequently, however, this strength morphs into a weakness — changes in policies, processes, and practices become necessary as leaders push for increased results C’mon, people, we really need to climb that pole to make our revenue and profit goals this year!  but the culture pushes back Don’t climb that pole! insisting on preserving the current way of doing things “Geez, boss, we haven’t climbed that pole for 15 years and haven’t we been wildly successful?”
Of course you are now way ahead of me and considering the quite major implication of all of this … What if the monkeys we need to climb the pole to survive?  Would they we be able to overcome the conditioning?  Would they we change?  Would there be one brave monkey associate who would climb that pole?
So: are your customers increasing their expectations?  Are your competitors getting stronger, more aggressive?  As our government regulations get reformed and our vendors adopt different practices and the younger labor force holds different expectations and … and … to what extent do we need to change; to re-engineer processes and adapt existing practices; to learn new behaviors; to climb that pole!
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