Tough Times? Turn Inward: A Report

February 17th, 2010   •   no comments   
“Hunkering Down:” Our Natural Response?

Richard Harwood of the Harwood Insitute reveals the results of his latest study, sponsored by the Kettering Foundation: The Organization First Approach: How Programs Crowd Out Community.  (Go to Harwood’s Report: The Organization First)

“Just when leaders and organizations need to turn outward toward their communities, they turn inward toward their organizations.”

Is this something we naturally do…as a sort of self-protection?  Like some suit of armor that, while providing some protection, ironically leads us away from opportunities?  I believe it is.  So, just as it is the human to be compassionate in the presence of anger or evil, this is another skill we must acquire: looking outside when we’re scared.  For opportunities and partnerships with others who…are scared, too.

My own informal analysis leads me to conclude that this trend proves true for both non- and for-profit organizations.  intuitively, it’s understandable: “things are bad…I’ll just focus on what’s going on inside the company…looking outside could be…risky…”

Harwood’s study reveals the flaws in thinking: the leaders gave explanations of the various internal barriers to an expanded role in their organization’s efforts in community engagment: “A lack of funding was typically the first obstacle they mentioned; the lack of appropriate skills was second; for others, internal interest presented yet another barrier.”

This response reminds me of Peter Drucker’s admonition back in the early 90’s: in his gravelly, German-crusted accent, he offered: “…nothing is more ineffective than to make efficient what should not be done in the first place…” 

Are these — are most of them — organizations engaging in a vicious cycle of fear-based introspection that is encouraged by the terror that is the “outside world?” 

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