Creating an ecosystem

Traditional neoclassical economics looks at an economic system and in theory, predicts that inputs of land, labor, capital, and technology will result in value outputs.  Solid theory, yes, but we all know it is not that simple.  In reality, the presence of those inputs does not just equal the output.  A + b does not equal c.  There are faces behind those inputs in the form of landlords, engineers, investors, and scientists that make our equation a little more complicated.  All of these individuals are biological living systems with different thoughts, emotions, personalities, and needs. 

So what does our equation look like now? More like 2(a + b) x 7(c + d) / (e x 5) = f.  Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally! It might be time to brush up on our middle school algebra lessons and revisit the PEMDAS method for solving this order of operations.  (By the way, submissions for a killer New Leaf version of the PEMDAS acronym are now being accepted).

These concepts all stem from a book called The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley by Victor Hwang and Greg Horowitt.  The authors are experts at the intersection of venture capital and global development who propose a new theory to explain the nature of innovation ecosystems.  They recognize the value in human networks and emphasize that available resources are not enough to form an efficient system; rather, the manner in which these resources and individuals interact and work together is what makes a network viable and successful.

So how does this perspective relate to the culture we are creating at New Leaf?  We recognize that, like a rainforest, our community has a diverse set of inputs in the form of talent, ideas, and skills that, if integrated properly, have the potential to create some pretty awesome things.  So we are establishing our culture so that it provides the outlets for these human networks to flourish.  We believe we can create our own thriving rainforest in the Centre region.  It will be our job to build connections and relationships that transcend various disciplines, generations, and sectors and contribute to a diverse innovative ecosystem that avoids the pitfalls of social barriers.  The secret recipe of Rainforests is about people and how they interact with each other.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups.  It is a psychological concept I have always been interested in on an individual basis, but had never applied the theory to organizations and systems until late.  The message in The Rainforest reminded me of EI because of its emphasis on the realities of human nature.  Both concepts understand the complexity of living systems and the value in mastering the intricate web of human social networks.  I reflected on New Leaf as an organization and realized its level of emotional intelligence is what puts us in the position to tackle these network challenges.

Let me explain why.  The Mixed Model outlines five main constructs of EI (straight from Wikipedia):

1.  Self-awarenessthe ability to know one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and goals and recognize their impact on others while using gut feelings to guide decisions.

New Leaf is aware of what we do and do not do well.  We are developing the space that will allow us to capitalize on our strengths as we sustain ourselves as an organization.  Yet we realize our weaknesses and the areas beyond our capacity.  That is when we call on our network and will direct you to another resource that can help.  Our balance lies between idealistic and realistic, so we resort to practical decisions that stem from our intuitions.  Call us naive, but we think first with our hearts and then with our wallets.  Gut feelings are our biggest ally.

2.  Self-regulation – involves controlling or redirecting one’s disruptive emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances.

Since the founding of New Leaf, the organization has been evolving and redirecting.  Think of us as a chameleon – we adapt based on the demands of our environment (seems like an appropriate time for a shout out to our pet chameleon Pascal – RIP buddy).  Since I have been involved with New Leaf, we have changed what we do every semester despite the extreme goal to be consistent.  New Leaf is able to analyze its situation and regulate its operations to best suit the needs of its community.

3.  Social skill – managing relationships to move people in the desired direction.

This is the core of what we do.  We connect.  We network.  We bridge gaps.  All so that relationships can be built that will form the foundation of progress and action.

4.  Empathy – considering other people’s feelings especially when making decisions.

New Leaf is a neutral space.  We are creating a culture of us, of a community, that does what is best for everyone.  We understand the complexity of human relationships and will always be mindful when we make decisions that affect others.  New Leaf will provide a space where territory does not exist, but where neutrality reigns.  People’s feelings will always come first since we believe good feelings lead to great work.

5.  Motivation – being driven to achieve for the sake of achievement.

We wouldn’t be here if we did not want to achieve something.  We want positive change.

According to Dr. Cary Cherniss, visionaries like Dr. Martin Luther King had the ability to effect social change because of their high emotional intelligence.  Cherniss believes if these traits are fostered among community leaders and activists, we will see stronger communities all around the world.  My idealistic side trails off into thoughts of what this world would look like if all businesses, corporations, and organizations were extremely emotionally intelligent.  What if all working systems operated at a high emotionally intelligent level? What if they truly understood the complexity of human behavior and did what was best for people and business, not just for business.  There are already a bunch of groups out there that are high on the EI scale doing really amazing work.  Here’s to adding another one to the mix.

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One thought on “Creating an ecosystem

  1. Nice post, Sern. You should check out the book Small is Beautiful by Schumacher. Written in the 1970s, but it laid the foundation for these kind of ideas 😉

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