Be Bold, Be Innovative
As nonprofit leaders, we are called upon to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing our communities and our world. Whether it's addressing poverty, improving access to healthcare, or protecting the environment, the problems we face can seem overwhelming and insurmountable.
Earlier this week, I posted a video telling the story of Richard Branson’s efforts to free hostages from Iraq in 1990. Take a look at the video if you haven’t already seen it – but in short, I was really inspired by the boldness of a 40-year-old businessman who decides he wants to try and free hostages from a warzone. It takes a sort of insane audacity, but the same spirit, if picked up by the rest of us, would lead to massive change in the world.
Unfortunately, there are many barriers that can prevent us from doing so. Fear of failure or criticism, lack of resources, soft acceptance of the status quo, and limited imagination or creativity are all common challenges that we face as leaders. I find that these barriers often scale as we get older – even though we are now more capable because of our experience, we are simultaneously more jaded about the problems we see around us.
Here are some practical tips
So what can we do to create bold solutions to big problems? I am not going to address the roots of fear or insecurity in this newsletter, but here are some practical steps that a leader can take to encourage such a spirit in their team:
First and foremost, the leader must demonstrate such a willingness themselves. Don’t put off the largest problem until the end of a meeting or day. Tackle it head-on, and discuss it first. Come up with seemingly impractical solutions, but ones that show your openness to creative ideas.
Foster a culture of innovation and experimentation: Encourage your team to take risks and try new approaches. Celebrate failures as opportunities for learning and growth. Congratulate the team member who was willing to take a large risk to create an even bigger result.
Build diverse teams with different perspectives and skills: Bring together people with different backgrounds, experiences, and expertise to tackle complex problems. In a meeting, encourage people from different backgrounds to speak and propose ideas. This isn’t always the most efficient, but helps come up with the best solution.
Collaborate with other organizations, especially in different sectors. Why are we as nonprofit leaders so reluctant to talk to executives from the for-profit sector to discuss real problems and how to solve them? There are often incredible solutions that people from other industries may be able to bring to the table.
Create and set aside time for meetings that favor innovation over efficiency. In a normal weekly meeting, it is difficult to stop the flow for creative ideas, so they are often squashed. Have a meeting just to discuss possible solutions to a large issue you are facing. Make this meeting creative, open, and fun.
Use data and evidence to inform decision-making: Collect and analyze data to understand the scope and impact of the problem you are trying to solve. Use evidence-based approaches to design and implement your solutions.
Creating bold solutions requires persistence and adaptability. It may take time to see the impact of your efforts, and there may be setbacks along the way. But if you are willing to embrace audacity and take bold action, you can make a real difference in the lives of those you serve.
Next week, I’m going to bring you some examples of nonprofit leaders who have created bold, surprising initiatives to address huge problems in the country. So stay tuned!
About Maneva Group
If you would like to discuss how you can hire bold leaders for your organization, please reach out to me at email@example.com. We will schedule a free 15-minute consult about how we can help you maximize your impact through strategic hiring.