WT Business Beat

By Nick Wakeman

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Community that can solve problems

I wouldn't generally do this, particularly for a story I wrote, but I want to make a recommendation ? read my Last Byte interview with Mark Gerencser of Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.

Better yet, buy the book he and his colleagues have written, Megacommunities: How Leaders of Government, Business and Non-Profits Can Tackle Today's Global Challenges Together.

It is a fascinating read. In a nutshell, Gerenscer and his three co-authors have written a guide on how the three sectors in today's society can work together to address complex problems. The concept is not original to them, but it is one they have studied in order to flesh out its driving principles. As Gerenscer explained to me it is practice leading theory, where they find a practice and develop the theory behind it.

My Last Byte is OK, but it really doesn't do justice to the book or the theory. If I had to do it over again, I probably should have written a straight forward story instead of using the Q&A format. I'll know better next time.

A couple things that stick out in my mind. One is that the leadership construct is not a command and control type of thing, where you have one person or group in charge. Instead, it is a collaborative leadership model that works because of the networks that connect people. Very Web 2.0, in a way.

The second thing, is that for a megacommunity to work everyone has to understand what is at stake and how it impacts them. They all have a stake in the outcome, so they have to think of the good of the whole.

As they say in the book, it is about optimizing your self-interest, not maximizing it. It is about taking the long term view and what will be best for all involved. You can still be selfish with this view ? and that's OK. Megacommunities aren't about giving up your self interest, but about understanding the broader context of an issue or a problem.

One example, that came to my mind as I read the book, is the workforce issue facing the government because of the rising tide of retirements. Sure, this could mean more outsourcing opportunities for contractors, but over the long haul, contractors are better served by having a customer who is smart, well-trained and has the resources to do their job.

If you pull in colleges and universities, there is no reason why those three sectors ? government, business and non-profits ? can't work together to address the workforce shortage. All three sectors would benefit. Sure, businesses may see potential employees go to the government, but they'll benefit over the long term because they'll have a smarter customer.

Anyway, there are better examples in the book such as AIDS and economic development. I highly recommend it.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on May 19, 2008 at 9:54 AM

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