New Commons' core practice represents an evolving set of techniques and areas of focus. Overall, we seek to develop methodologies that let organizations create and implement plans that put forward their best thinking.
Three factors represent the foundations of our practice and they all involve seeing bigger pictures and setting higher goals. The precis below gives that core concept. Read more on the Foundations page.
Systems Thinking: By focusing only on the immediate problem (as a mechanic would), organizations prevent themselves from seeing the whole system of relationships that will be affected by "the solution". When organizations allow themselves a broader perspective (as a physician might take), they often discover that their "problem" was more of a "symptom". Thus organizations begin to diagnose unhealthy conditions and develop therapies to cure the disease, not just treat the symptom.
Design: By addressing the entity itself and all its functions as a design challenge, organizations open themselves to a range of possibilities that can produce radical improvements in outcomes.
Collaboration: Highly collaborative organizations often point to the adoption of this practice as the catalyzing force that drove them to new heights. Collaboration speeds development, uncovers more options and creates better, more fully vetted decisions. If collaboration can deliver these results, why isn't the practice more common? The answer is simple—because it's hard.
Many plans we've produced demonstrate high levels of strategic thinking, even though they were never called "strategic plans". And we've come across plenty of strategic plans that weren't strategic at all, at least, not by our standards. Our approach to planning generates stakeholder agreements that lead to immediate action. Is the plan strategic? We look for six factors that indicate strategic thinking.
Place: Community, Character, Environment & Economy
We love places, especially places that have a lot of character. And places are found in both neighborhoods and organizations. Character comes from the people that make up the place and from the environment, both natural and built. When a place manages its environment in a way that plays up its character, it produces excellent conditions in which economic development can thrive. In general, a singular focus on economic development tends to degrade community, character and the environment, ultimately becoming counterproductive.
If, as it is said, "change is the only constant", then leaders must accept that their organizations are never "done". Rather, successful organizations change continuously to marshal changing conditions. Therefore, the leaders themselves must also change and adapt.
Many clients' first facilitated workshops with us represent an inflection point in their careers. Suddenly, the fog clears and options present themselves, complex chains of causality reveal themselves and co-workers "wacky" ideas prove sensible in the proper context.
Is New Commons really that smart? Is it something in the water? Of course not.
Simply put, facilitation—a formalized process of generating and vetting ideas—gives participants the mental and emotional space to see familiar things "with new eyes". While it doesn't make the participants any smarter, facilitation helps participants realize how smart they are as individuals AND how much smarter they are as a group.
Taken the next step, facilitation creates an excellent platform for communication. That is, once an organization becomes aware of the benefits that facilitation delivers, it often become a common methodology for internal communications. Sometimes, a facilitation-based internal communications platform represents the first step toward true collaboration.
Facilitation also produces well-vetted and "deeply true" messages for communicating with customers and external partners. Ideas are more thoroughly vetted and, because they generally result from multiple inputs, they tend to represent more accurately the essential nature or "unique selling proposition" of the organization.
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