Monday, November 8, 2010

Where good (board) ideas come from



Twitter brought this little video gift this morning, from Steven Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From.

As with most everything I encounter in life these days, I couldn't help thinking about boards as I watched. Do we create spaces where the kinds of connectivity Johnson describes can take shape? Do we nurture breathing room and value insights shared amidst the rush to check reports off the agenda? Do we foster opportunities for good ideas inside board members' heads to make it to the surface so they can be connected?

I feel a sense of "deja vu all over again" as I ask those questions. They are not new to me, or to readers of this blog. But I appreciate the way in which this video provides a framework for reflecting on them (and challenging yet again our assumptions about what governance looks like).

I also can't help wondering, as he describes the coffee houses and salons of eras past, whether there isn't merit in providing a similar kind of space for board members and those who support them, to foster the kinds of interactions and "collision of hunches" that might truly impact governance. That's a question I'm always pondering. (You might call it an obsession.)

Yes, I grasp the big challenges of that notion - especially when talking about a relatively transient bunch of time-pressed volunteers. But it's obvious that something is missing, something that leaves us operating in isolation and frustration. How do those of us who care about governance, and governing effectively, create space - mental, physical, intellectual, etc. - where good ideas can be discovered and grown?

I'd love to chat here about the video and about how we might foster this in nonprofit governance.

2 comments:

Gayle L. Gifford, ACFRE said...

Debra,
THANK YOU so much for this. First, I loved Steve Johnson's book Everything Bad is Good For You and recommend it. I'll have to get this new one.
Second, we are so on the same wave length. My blog post last week was "Nonprofits need to hang out together more often" http://bit.ly/dfzJNM in which I was musing about the need for more connectivity.
Gayle

Debra Beck, EdD said...

As I said on Twitter, Gayle, Great minds...

:)

I really did appreciate Johnson's conceptualization - thinking it will resonate in some interesting and important way for many who encounter it.

Timing was good for me, as well: I spent part of the weekend brainstorming a project of mine (online "class" focusing on Board Practice Communities) that will have a strong community of practice foundation.

In the back of my mind, as that nasty little inner critic telling me raged, "board members will never come...," was the chapter I'd just read criticizing governance research for never actually involving board members.

It's funny that we've been thinking along these same lines. It's also a good example of the connectivity that's possible amongst willing and fertile minds. Were those colliding 'hunches' we encountered? ;)