Learning is the New Productivity

Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.  – William Pollard

When we think of productivity, we think of working harder, working smarter, multitasking, and ultimately, getting more done in less time. Being efficient with our time is an essential, foundational skill. Consistently looking for ways to streamline processes keeps us focused and productive. Discovering new ways to apply what we already know leads to more creativity and innovation.  Execution is one of the currencies of a competitive marketplace. And yet, working only with what we know right now means something important is missing in our day.

Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil has stated, “The 21st century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of progress at today’s rate of learning.” In other words, we have to deliberately and consistently spend time every day learning or else we will be working on yesterday’s information.

We will be behind.

Knowledge experts agree that today, learning is the new productivity.

I make it a habit to carve time out of just about every day to study, to learn, and to reflect. While sometimes this means I have to get up before the sun has risen, I find that this habit fuels me, inspires me, keeps me curious, and keeps me open to new ways of thinking and doing. I don’t just read, though I do that a lot. I listen to podcasts, I talk to people, I ask questions. I spend time just thinking and synthesizing and I take notes—lots of them. I consider my learning time to be some of my most productive time, and I am energized by it.

What else can I learn? What is happening in the technological world that will inform our solutions?  How are the best companies recruiting and leveraging talent?   These are the types of questions I ask myself every day, and these are the types of questions I encourage my staff to ask.

Is learning on your to-do list? If so, what does it look like? As always, I welcome your thoughts.


Recognizing an Entrepreneurial Spirit

Each of the organizations within the Fedcap Group has a history of doing something new and innovative—committed to righting a wrong, improving access or changing attitudes. Their vision and entrepreneurial spirit continues to propel us forward.

As a leader, I seek to surround myself with people who harbor and who foster the same entrepreneurial spirit as that of our founders. And while I wish it were so, this spirit is not something that is readily teachable. Rather it is an innate quality that can—and must—be recognized. It can be nurtured and encouraged, but I have found that those who possess an entrepreneurial spirit have certain instinctive characteristics in common.

First, they have a passion for solving, not serving, the problem. They feel an emotional and a tactical connection to the people we serve and the and the challenges we seek to solve. The drive to help improve the lives of others is what drives and compels them to work long hours and to give 150%.

Second, they never stop questioning how to do “it” better. They seek input from all perspectives. They research. They read. They talk to strangers about their work to get completely objective opinions. They learn from others doing similar work. They are rigorous in their quest to understand data and how to measure success. They never rest on the laurels of yesterday’s success.

Third, they posses a spirit of realistic optimism. They believe that the environment, the circumstances, and the challenges they face can improve. They understand that sometimes it is just one precisely placed intervention, one shift in funding can result in significant impact. They are optimists about the goal and realistic about what it takes to achieve it.

Fourth, they have a high tolerance for risk. They understand that there are economic, reputational, and financial risks in every new direction and every new venture. But they also understand how to strategically understand and manage the risk.

Fifth, they know how to identify and engage talent to get things done. They know how to build teams that effectively manage their time, their talent and their resources. They know how to create a vison, establish goals, create a strategy in service to those goals and a structure to effectively accomplish the work.

What other traits might you add to my list? As always, I am eager to hear your thoughts.

Maximizing Organizational Intelligence

Tomorrow, October 9th, at the Mutual of America Building, 320 Park Avenue, The Fedcap Group is hosting its 16th Solution Series: Maximizing Organizational Intelligence: Building Capacity to Create and Strategically Use Knowledge. The recent spotlight on the importance of knowledge in corporate management is highlighted by studies estimating that the value of employee know-how, patents, brand recognition and other forms of knowledge rose from 38% of corporate assets in 1982 to 62% in 1992. In 1997, knowledge accounted for 80% of all corporate assets and in 2018 knowledge accounts for 83% of all corporate assets.

Organizational intelligence is defined as the capacity of an organization to create knowledge and use it to strategically adapt to its environment. Actionable knowledge that drives insights and leads to better decision-making is necessary for success in a fast-changing global marketplace.

Maximizing organizational intelligence presents companies with both opportunities and challenges. Intelligent organizations that successfully leverage information have a distinct competitive advantage, but they risk being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data that is available to them.

To fully leverage data and analytics, we have learned that we need to manifest all the elements that define an intelligent organization – business, emotional, social, and cultural intelligence. This requires technological capabilities, understanding the dynamics and motivations of a multicultural workforce and being structured to manage complexity and change. Every member of the organization must learn to think analytically, seek out new knowledge, embrace experimentation and innovation, and encourage creativity and independence.

The Fedcap Group is a global network of nonprofit agencies dedicated to advancing the economic and social well-being of the impoverished and disadvantaged. We fully appreciate the need for and complexities of leveraging powerful new technologies, intensive market placed research, as well as the intelligence of our own diverse and talented workforce to drive actionable insight.

At The Fedcap Group, we embrace the challenge – it is the only way forward.

Maximizing Organizational Intelligence

Just as we now measure the intelligence of people by using an Intelligence Quotient, the study of organizational intelligence measures the intellectual capacity of entire organizations to create knowledge and use it to strategically adapt to its environment or marketplace.

These days, it is critical for organizations to improve the speed and the process for making decisions and maximizing their efficiency and efficacy so that they can best adapt strategically and structurally to the business environment. Not long ago, the success of an organization rested with the caliber and intelligence of its leaders and the bits of data collected. Certainly, smart organizations require smart leaders. But the responsibility for agility and better performance now rests with the entire organization. It is not just the leaders who must be intelligent. It is the organization.

What makes an organization intelligent and constantly learning? While organizations in the past have been viewed as compilations of tasks, products, employees, profit centers and processes, today they are increasingly seen as intelligent systems designed to manage knowledge. Scholars have shown that organizations engage in learning processes using tacit forms of intuitive knowledge, hard data stored in computer networks and information gleaned from the environment, all of which are used to make sensible decisions. Because this complex process involves large numbers of people interacting with diverse information systems, Organizational Intelligence is more than the aggregate intelligence of organizational members; it is the intelligence of the organization itself as a larger system.  To live as a learning organization, we must pay attention to data that reflects a variety of intelligences including business, social, emotional and cultural.

On October 9th, from 8:00-9:30 a.m., The Fedcap Group is hosting its 16th Solution Series: Maximizing Organizational Intelligence: Building Capacity to Create and Strategically Use Knowledge. There, with a panel of extraordinary experts, we will explore the complexities, the challenges, and the rewards of creating, collecting, analyzing, and using the disparate and numerous data we have to make better decisions, build organizational capacity, and succeed in a diverse and ever-changing business environment. This solution series will appeal to for-profit and non-profit business sectors, academia and government, as organizational intelligence is the answer to building better systems, forging greater partnerships, and creating a better, values-driven workforce.

Please join us for this most important, fascinating, and informative discussion. I encourage you all to click on the date-saver below to register to attend the free event:

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Standing Against Hate

I believe as an organization driven by mission, it is our duty and responsibility to stand up for our values and stand against any social patterns that might interfere with or thwart the fulfillment of our mission. Recently, I have been speaking and writing about standing for second chances. Today, I write to underscore the need for us all—as a society, as an organization, and as individuals–to stand against the persecution of those who are targets of hate crimes.

Hate crimes are on the rise in our country. Specifically, crimes against children with disabilities and the homeless—groups we provide many services to–have risen significantly over the past years.

Further, we have all borne witness to the public airing of vitriol against African Americans, Muslims and Jews.  The Southern Poverty Law Center, whose mission it is to fight hate and teach tolerance, publishes a “hate map,” which shows the types and specific “homes” of hate groups throughout the United States. (see https://www.splcenter.org/hate-map)

The repercussions of a hate crime are obviously terrible for the victim or victims who are targeted. But hate crimes have an even wider impact than those who are directly affected. One hate crime creates a ripple effect—a message to an entire community who share a common thread, whether it be those who practice a certain religion or ethnic culture, those born in a country other than the U.S., those who are part of the LGTBQ community, and/or those who, because of a variety of circumstances, find themselves homeless or challenged by mental illness or addiction, or who live with a physical disability.

Together, we must stand against hate and hate crimes. We cannot be afraid or intimidated by the oppressors and bullies who perpetrate these crimes. This means mustering our collective courage and speaking up whenever and wherever we can. And it means honoring the people we serve and their families and their communities so that they can achieve equity, unhampered by the behaviors of those who do not embrace and share our values of diversity and inclusion, values that make our communities strong, resilient, and thriving.

Why Trying Matters A Great Deal

“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”                        — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Every day, everything we do within The Fedcap Group is in service to creating opportunities for people with barriers to economic well-being.

Every day, we challenge the status quo—not accepting the stigma or the prejudice or the inherent bias that people with barriers face.

Every day, we are testing new ways to impact chronic societal problems.

And, every day, we are implementing precise interventions to change the course of an individual life.

And, every day we are trying to improve the world.  This is the only way that a legacy will be transformed, a system will be disrupted for the better, generational poverty will be eradicated…by trying.

It is our responsibility to keep trying, to keep learning, to keep taking risks, because it is in the trying that the true action—and results—lie.

At The Fedcap Group, we talk openly about trying. We are radical about improvement and relentless about truth.  We do not minimize or trivialize the act of trying.  We know that while we can’t always guarantee where the trying will land us, the very nature of developing a “spirit of trying” across the agency, communicates a belief in what is possible, what can happen when good people strive to do something right, something important, something honorable.

I know that as a leader, I must lead by trying.  I must demonstrate the impact of trying.  I must charter a course of trying … and point to the importance of trying as a driving value of the agency.

How do you articulate the “trying”? What does “trying” looking like in the day-to-day life of your organization?

Standing Up for What We Believe

“Doing the right thing is not always easy, and it is not always popular, but isn’t it enough that it is right?”  — Senora Roy

As a leader, I am ethically and morally bound to stand up for what I believe.

  • I believe in the Power of Possible and that with the right kinds of support, people can achieve things they never imagined.
  • I believe in standing up for those whose voices have been silenced, who feel invisible.
  • I believe in the promise of second chances.
  • I believe in being a champion for equity.
  • I believe in our mission to eliminate barriers to economic well-being.

We are a values-driven organization and together, we are intentional about articulating our stand for supporting those who deserve a second chances. As we partner with agencies, foundations, businesses, and government entities, we work hard to reflect the values for which we stand. We are committed to changing the conversation, influencing the culture and eliminating the stigma that suggests that those who have fallen cannot get up again.

We, as a large and far-reaching organization, are living proof that second chances are worthwhile and productive on BOTH an individual and an organizational level.

Every day, each of the 4,000+ employees working in companies across the nation who comprise The Fedcap Group, renew our commitment to making a difference—in as many ways as possible—for those we serve.  This commitment is not comprised simply of noble-sounding words. This commitment is embedded in thousands of everyday actions. It is reflected in putting over 13,000 people to work so far this year, in helping hundreds of thousands of impoverished individuals obtain Supplemental Nutritional Assistance so that they can eat, and in helping over 6,000 children with disabilities learn and play alongside their non-disabled peers. It is reflected when a ReServist works with a foster family, helping them learn how to inspire young people in foster care to go to college; and in the pride of the staff of our Total Facilities Management company—cleaning buildings from Ellis Island to the Statue of Liberty.

This is how we maintain our credibility and integrity as an organization. This is how we change lives—one person and one system at a time.

Yes, there are times when standing up for what we believe sometimes comes at a price.  To me, it is worth it. Every time.

I look forward to your thoughts.

Learning as an Organizational Priority

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” — John F. Kennedy

As a non-profit, to be successful, like any business, we must focus on results. Results come from creating tight systems, processes, and implementing innovative and precise interventions.

How do we make that happen?

By being students of our profession. By seeking to understand. By testing new ideas.  By making learning an organizational priority.

When we recruit new staff, when we promote individuals to leaders, when we select individuals for our Leadership Academy, even when we consider new combinations, we look for curiosity and an articulated commitment to learning.

The lifespan of businesses is shrinking. The pace of change is so fast that thriving enterprises can disappear in short order—with a stroke of disruptive innovation by a nearby competitor. We must ensure that our level of responsiveness, our ability to be nimble, agile, and flexible is not just assumed, but is an articulated priority at every level of the organization.

So, what, indeed, does a learning culture look like?

  • It looks like leaders inspiring a shared vision for the future and intentionally imbuing our leaders as coaches, and teachers who help every individual throughout the entire organization—at every level —understand what their role is in helping to co-create that shared vision.

I often visit various areas throughout the agency asking staff to describe their understanding of where the organization is going.  This effort keeps me grounded and helps me to understand if the message is permeating into the very fiber of the agency.

  • It looks like building the capacity and tools to use information to advance our work.

Fedcap has invested a significant amount of money in the last decade in technology and in training and we still aren’t quite where we need to be.  In the absence of real time information an organization simply cannot survive—data must inform daily decisions.

  • It looks like being able to course correct at the speed of sound when the market place changes with little warning.

The moment we are awarded a contract, we plan for the day when the contract ends.  We spend a considerable amount of time thinking through the risk and rewards of our decisions.  We drive toward readiness to adapt—ready for changes in market forces. 

Our capacity to learn, to adapt and to innovate quickly will be—and is—our measure of success.

How do you manifest learning within your business? I welcome your thoughts.

Second Chances: Standing Up for What We Believe

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  — Martin Luther King Jr.

At Fedcap we stand for second chances. We believe that with hard work, tomorrow can be better than today. We stand for the Power of Possible.  This commitment is woven throughout the fabric of our agency—and drives us every single day.  For us, a second chance is the next step on a person’s journey to fulfilling their dreams of a better life.

Many of the people who come through our doors, many of the people in the systems we serve, and many of the people we hire, have struggled—for one reason or other. Some have wrestled with a substance use disorder, some have criminal records, and some have crawled across harsh land to find a new life in our country. We are committed to providing them with a second chance.

Statistics bear out that the majority of the time, those in recovery, those who were previously incarcerated, and those who immigrated from another country are responsible, trustworthy and dependable employees. These are individuals who have built strong resilience and who have overcome their past, with intention and purpose. They have much to lose by not succeeding on the job, and they know it.

The employer who offers an individual a second chance is modeling for its employees, other employers and for society as a whole, the values we all should strive for and stand for.

When we combined with Wildcat in 2011, we did so because of their pioneering efforts to provide a second chance to individuals involved in the criminal justice system.  Their history became part of our future.  Our innovative work within Rikers providing clinical, educational and workforce readiness services is resulting in men leaving jail ready to work.  And our exciting Women’s Project, funded in part by Robin Hood and the Open Society Foundation, helps women who are detained at Rikers due to lack of bail money, get out and find a job, a home and a future.

Throughout The Fedcap Group, we hire people both from within our programs and from without who have paid their dues, served their time, and who are entitled to a second chance. Who among us has not made a mistake—sometimes with great consequence—and has learned and grown as a result? Why should those who have struggled not be given a chance to contribute and to bring the resilience, the growth, the learning, and the clear and unwavering commitment to do better? We stand firm in our belief that offering a second chance is the right thing to do.

Our Executive Team completed a four-day retreat in late August.  During our discussion, each of us articulated our personal values and recommitted to our organizational values; we made clear what we stood for. We discussed at length the importance of standing for something, and then living by those principles, especially when others may judge us for our stance.

There are causes in need of trumpeting and the importance of providing second chances is one of them.  I firmly believe that failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker.

I challenge all of us, including employers in every sector—from retail to big business to non-profits to government to charitable organizations—to summon the integrity to support those in our society who are fighting for a second chance.   I think you’ll find, as we do here at The Fedcap Group, that these are employees who demonstrate their loyalty by going over and above, taking full advantage of the opportunity, and giving their very best efforts to do valuable work.

Will you stand with us and commit to supporting those who deserve a second chance?