How to cultivate a Can-Do Attitude regarding the economy

Submitted by Storm Palace on Mon, 11/21/2005 - 13:38.

Please post thoughts and comments regarding creating a can-do attitude for improving the economy in NEO

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We have a can-do attitude

I've been back in Cleveland about a year-and-a-half, returning from California, and I am thrilled with the level of can-do I've seen here. Tech Czar Michael DeAloia has been a great leader of that mind-set, for the IT sector, and there are innumerable other champions pushing great ideas and initiatives all over the region - this is a great time to make things happen in the community. These forums come out a two "world cafes" where 100s of cool local folks shared great ideas and energy, and we're always pushing the positive energy forward with realneo - there are many such activities and initiatives happening every month all over the region - get outgoing and involved.

What is often lacking is appreciation for the potential we have here, and the progress being made... as a community and as individuals. We tend to focus on the big plays, projects and headlines, without appreciating the small heroes and successes. I describe that problem as 1,000 points of light in darkness. Until we see the light, and work as a community to build upon luminary people and efforts, we will remain sad. Who are the luminaries in your world?


I Can Do - I Will Do, if given the chance

Norm hit the topic right on the button - the tendancy to emphasize the BIG and GLAMOROUS happenings in Cleveland overshadow the "underground" efforts, which in my opinion, are more substantial. And I guess that just has to do with our culture of bigger is better.

In my search for finding an engaging, substantial opportunity in Cleveland (i.e. new employment that strays from the typical bureaucratic system) I've run into some barriers that I will identify.

1. Advice from the older, "wiser" folk:

- Mike, have you looked at National City, Key Bank, Progressive, University Hospitals, Cleveland Clinic, etc. for opportunities?

- A: Yes. There are open opportunities. But if I only had all those years of . . . .

-Mike, you don't have the experience companies are looking for. Have you looked at opportunities on or for entry-level positions?

- A. Yes - but I yearn for something that brings more challenges and more substantial personal gratification (i.e. developing a new program of economic sustanability and watching it grow) than creating a new innovative system of filing and purging documents.

-Mike, you're young and impatient. Take a couple of years to get your feet wet and then look for those big opportunities.

- A. No - I will tirelessly search for a place where I can make a meaningful impact and gather the energy of those like me to do the same. I feel that I will "sell-out" by working for "the man" - I see my elders who are comfortable with their salaries and benefits, living in their comfortable homes, sending their children to comfortable schools, driving their comfortable cars, and having their comfortable cocktail parties.

Do I want all this? Yes, of course (less the cocktail parties). But can I achieve this "American Dream" by finding alterate routes to personal/communal prosperity? My idealistic, entrepreneurial spirit says YES! Settling for something less than this dream will be a defeat - and, if all my efforts fail, I might just have to in order to have the money to pay for my rent and have some health insurance. Until then, I really do not want to submit to the "way things are" as I wake up everyday wondering how I can change my world to the ways "things can be."

Can do, but what?

Your comments speak of personal perspectives, which are important. Young people in NEO need to feel they can do it here, whatever it may be. It is very important we are a community that makes young people feel they will be successful.

What they will be successful at is another set of issues.

There are certain industries here where someone can go to school and get a job - healthcare, legal, etc. There are probably plenty of jobs across many industries to make NEO a decent place to seek employment, but we're far from booming. If you want to move, you can probably find stronger job markets elsewhere. In some industries you'd definitely want to look elsewhere for employment.

But if you want to do your own thing - whether be an entrepreneur, specialist, artist or consultant - your needs become very different. If you want to do a certain type of work, or work in a specific sector, like environmental advocacy, you need to seek out or make specific opportunities. If you are building a business, you have additional issues and challenges.

Life is not easy, whether you just want to pay the bills or change the world. NEO is not the easiest place in the world to make a living, by any standard. So it takes a can-do attitude to survive and thrive here. It also takes a good idea of what you want to do.

How about creating a new system of recruitment?

Probably to Norm's chagrin (because we were talking in his ear the whole time), Sudhir and I brainstormed the concept of designing an internship/recruitment system for NEO.  Primarily, this system would target small to mid-level companies because building the success of those companies would mean building greater economic sustainability.

So . . . how? Through the design of website similar to MySpace that focuses on the individual (student) as a potential employee (intern). The individual will fill out a couple of assessments (TBD what those are) that give the employer an idea of what the individual is truly passionate about - this is based on the premise that people are more effective when they do something by virtue of intrinsic motivation. Addtionally, their profile will include a video-resume (based on the vblog concept) where we ask interview based questions (which can be customized to a particular employer's company, if requested and paid for by the employer).  In effect, we can create a database of students who are then potential interns for companies - and, unlike the typical shlock of resumes, these individual-rich profiles can explore any person's uniqueness and give the employer an idea of the persons' character, personality, interests, etc.

The reason I stress internships are because of their potential impact on the region: we have 25? colleges in NEO with students from all over the world. It is worth NEO's time to invest in these students as potential employees by training them as interns for a very lost cost to the company (an hourly wage) and then integrating them into the company as full-time employees - a try-before-you-buy model. Whether the student is retained as a regular employee, he/she has still built a skill/knowledge set that can be useful in other employment opportunities.

Definitely consistent with realneo

A unique idea of realneo is to make it a "knowing and loving" virtual community. Thus it will best know attributes of job candidates and be able to match candidates with optimal opportunities.

Increasingly, the candidates "resume" will become less important than his/her "reputation" - status within measurable virtual networks - and intellectual property - being the sum content of their virtual existence. All just data - video, audio, text - information technology can know you better than you know yourself. An effective user profile system will give individuals maximum control over who knows what about you when.

Appreciative Inquiry and the Self

I am driven by the value of acceptance of others for who they are (though for people who know me, I am generally unaccepting of people who do not value acceptance). That being said, my vision is that a new recruitment system would truly seek to capture who a person is as opposed to what they are not. The idea is to highlight an individuals strengths and bring those to the forefront of their persona, versus the traditional system of weeding people out based on their weaknesses and shortcomings. To unlock a person's potential and to help them explore avenues of success they never thought before (due to the American socialized system that emphasizes corporate ladder progress as the means to success).

I say all this because I went to school with many smart students who majored in subjects they felt would get them to the next step in life - be it law, medicine, engineering, business, etc. Yet, when I asked some of them what their true passions were, their major had very little to do with it. One business student I know wants to desperately be a financial analyst in NYC - a dream based on the illusion of financial splendor and exciting lifestyle. Breaking her back day in and day out studying her management courses, I asked her one day what she really loved to do: "I love to dance and I love math. I'm good at both."   And that just made me wonder - why is she pursuing an illusionary dream we see on TV (though I'm sure being an analyst in NYC does bring in the $$) when she could have a healthy, happy lifestyle doing what she loves and does best?

I understand that dance is a highly competitive field, as is any profession really. But I just think people don't give themselves enough credit for their strengths and pursuing opportunites in areas where they could excel instead of areas where they will struggle just to get by. Basically, I think in addition to new job creation in NEO, there needs to be innovation in employment design - just because someone works in a factory manufacturing the same molding everyday does not mean that person is not capable of many other things - to train, develop and enrich that person is another sustainable measure for economic development, if you ask me.

Recruiting for what we want to do

It is interesting this forum on developing a can-do attitude is focusing on recruiting. I've had to hire and tried to be hired so I know both sides of the equation.

Your story of the business student mirrors Rebecca Ryan's observation young people today choose the lifestyle they want first and then go out and get it. In youth your friend got good at dance, indicating she has intelligence and dedication. She's good at math, so she probably will be a good financial analyst. She really wants to be in the big time in NY, so she'll probably be loyal to the right opening, and happy.

A good recruiting system will match this candidate with the right firm not because she has high scores, but because the system knows the candidate intimately enough to know she will succeed there. That is what we must build, which will reward people's can-do attitudes with maxiumum value for doing.

The key is to get exciting things doing here, and connecting that with all the can-doers. 

The Appreciative Approach

Mike, I am in wholehearted agreement with your proposal.  I've been a student of Appreciative Inquiry for years now - and in my time as a member of AIC (Appreciative Inquiry Consulting) I've read many case studies, approaches, and applications regarding its use.  Several AI practitioners use Appreciative Inquiry with individuals and emphasize the dyadic relationship.  A similar approach would be extremly useful and effective if integrated into our methodology for candidate assessment for our recruiting and placement of quality interns with quality opportunities.

We can present the very best our candidate interns have to offer, and realize the inherent success likely should we ensure that candidates are given the opportunity to learn and grow within a job function they love.  Likewise, a similar appreciative approach can be taken in assessing and recruitng the companies that hire our interns.  In presenting recruiter and recruit to one another in the most positive and best light possible we really could achieve what the late management guru Peter Drucker defines as the key to business success:  'an alignment of strengths that makes weaknesses irrelevant'.  

Contrary to popular opinion this approach would still rectify problems and concerns - but would do so from the 'other side' - through positivity and an empowered, visionary alignment of strengths.  More on this soon!

Internship Interface Currently in Operation:

In today's PD, the following article was printed regarding a start-up business that matches students with employers:

The focus of this company is primarily in technology - students that study technology (web design, programming, etc.) and companies that don't have the resources, people or knowledge how to use current technology so they can hire students to do it for a much cheaper price.

The momentum for this type of service is picking up, and with a broader range of services offered, a more comprehensive interface could generate more interest and response. According to this article, the entrepreneur of this venture, JJ DiGeronimo has "More than 1,200 students and about 300 businesses are registered. Businesses have connected with students about 45 times so far."

That is a lot of students and a lot of businesses, but only 45 connections?  She has had about $10,000 in revenue for the year and she's looking to find more capital from venture capital firms and economic-based development initiatives.

My thought: Yet again an interface has been created that is used as a resource for employers and students, with no middle-man. I feel that the middle-man piece, the relationship piece, is crucial to more successful match-making website. If employers want that human touch to the technology, then that is what should be provided.