A 21st Century Jobs, Innovation & Leadership Lab


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A concept in development. Feel free to comment. Get in touch if you want to be involved: @WFLeadership or @kristinwolff.

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A 21st Century Jobs, Innovation & Leadership Lab

  1. 1. A 21st Century Jobs, Innovation & Leadership Lab “As of 2008, the war for good jobs has trumped all other leadership activities […] Thelack of good jobs will become the root cause of almost all world problems that Americaand other countries will face.” –Jim Clifton, Gallup Management Journal (September 2011)The ProblemJobs. There is no more significant issue on the minds of Americans today, or for the pastseveral years. Increasingly, jobs is every leaders’ job, across sectors, industries, geographies,and disciplines. And leaders can come from any corner of an organization, not just themanagement tier. 1. Communities face significant problems relating to jobs, work, and economic security for which existing programs and investments provide insufficient responses (unemployment; job/career transitions; industry shifts, etc.). Innovations in other fields (social innovation, Gov2.0, design, gaming, etc.) could inform new solutions, but there are few networks that connect people with problems to people with potential solutions in strategic and actionable ways. In addition, the risks of innovating in isolation (e.g., as a single social innovator, organization, or agency) are high and the benefits not widely shared. The Lab will help teams connect with innovators in related fields and their problems-solving and design methods, emphasizing rapid prototyping not just analyzing and planning. 2. Leadership in key professional fields tasked with the jobs agenda (e.g., workforce and related disciplines) is aging and mechanisms to prepare new leaders are lacking. 519 workforce leaders from across disciplines and jurisdictions told us that their field needs to pay attention to its next generation—not just by recruiting new people, but by building new skills, sharing knowledge across generations, and developing social networks that will enable innovation. The Enhancing Workforce Leadership Initiative documented six practices that embody the best of workforce leadership today. These practices will inform the design of the Lab, but we also expect the applied experience in the lab to inform our understanding of needed skills and practices. The Lab will cultivate next-generation leaders and build networks within and across professional fields that share a commitment to community prosperity. 3. Budget cuts are looming. Workforce leaders will almost certainly be asked to do more with less. They must also do different. The Lab will provide opportunities to experiment with new tools and bold approaches at a manageable scale.
  2. 2. 2 4. Workforce is one area inside the larger field of public policy, which itself struggles with innovation. The workforce field is characterized by an abundance of “best practices” that seek greater efficiency or effectiveness, but a dearth of new game- changing ideas and mechanisms to scale them. The Lab seeks to build innovation capacity in the workforce policy field—among leaders, within organizations, and across the networks. We know what the key problems are and are prepared to design supports that overcome them in ways that appropriately mitigate risk.Our ApproachWe seek to pilot a Jobs, Innovation & Leadership Lab in which 8-10 teams from across the USparticipate in a 12-month series of activities designed to cultivate leaders who can innovatesolutions to the jobs problem. Activities include the following: • Immersive learning on process subjects like social innovation methods, design thinking, rapid prototyping, documenting, etc. • Exposure to new ideas from other fields and across the globe that might inform the problems they seek to solve • Peer-supported action planning and testing of models to launching and implementing new ideas • Documenting and disseminating processes, lessons, and results • Building networks within and across teams, geographies, disciplines, organizations, professional fields, and demographics groupsThe Lab will be based on the WEadership Framework.1 The teams will design and launchinnovation initiatives that address job-related social and economic problems in participants’home communities. The teams will be supported by their peers, SPR staff, and partnersthroughout implementation (approximately 12 months), with SPR documenting the entire life ofthe project so that ideas, lessons, and other “how-tos” can be shared widely with leaders andaspiring leaders concerned with work, learning, and community prosperity (internationally).Our GoalsThe Lab is designed to allow cross-generational, cross-disciplinary teams to develop and launchsolutions to critical workforce challenges they have not been able to address in traditional ways.The point of the Lab is to build the teams’ capacity to iterate, experiment, and innovate withinthe networks in which they work.1 The WEadership framework consists of six practices—1) adopting a wide-angle point of view, 2)building diverse networks, 3) embracing openness, 4) encouraging experimentation, 5) adding uniquevalue, and 6) cultivating next-generation leaders—identified during the course of the EnhancingWorkforce Leadership initiative, the project that lead up to this concept. The project engaged 519 leadersconcerned with work, jobs, and community prosperity, ranging from mayors to workforce board staff toentrepreneurs and social innovators. The entire initiative is documented on the project’s website. Themain products, including the project’s video trailer, are accessible here and a brief description androadmap of resources is here. You can follow the project, managed by Social Policy Research Associatesand initially sponsored by the US Department of Labor, on Facebook or Twitter (@WFLeadership).
  3. 3. 3We aim to: 1. Cultivate a new generation of leaders who know how to innovate and how to mobilize others to jointly advance the common good. 2. Network innovative leaders to share their progress by “working out loud.” 3. Provide new ideas and policy solutions to our most pressing social problems.What Makes the Jobs, Innovation & Leadership Lab Unique?What we are proposing is not a leadership training program, institute, or academy in thetraditional sense. It is a collaborative laboratory in which current and aspiring leaders learn bydoing.The Jobs, Innovation & Leadership Lab: ● Emphasizes a team approach. It is less concerned with the individual leader, social entrepreneur, or innovator. ● Focuses on the entire innovation lifecycle, not just ideation or launch. Because we seek to build innovation capacity itself, problem-solving through implementation matters as much as the innovation itself. ● Explicitly links public and private systems (workforce, education, economic development) with social innovations, so that fantastic ideas have a better chance of achieving impact at greater scale.___________________________________________Please provide us with your feedback:1. What initiatives should we be looking at as examples?2. What potential partners (funders, sponsors, networks) should webe talking to?3. What most excites or concerns you about this concept?In order to contribute or be kept informed about the project, comment in slideshare or on ourFacebook page, or send email to project team leaders Kristin Wolff (kwolff@thinkers-and-doers.com) and Vinz Koller (Vinz_Koller@spra.com) or tweet @WFLeadership at Social PolicyResearch Associates. You may also ring/text 503.888.1022._________________________________________
  4. 4. 4Contributors to this concept to date: • 519 Workforce leaders who participated in the first phase of this project. They are here. • Kristin Wolff, SPR/t+d • Vinz Koller, SPR • Chandra Larsen, SPRNOTE: We have just begun sharing this document in its rough form. We plan to add the namesof those who provide feedback on the concept to the list. If you received this and plan tocomment, but would prefer not be listed by name, just let us know at kwolff@thinkers-and-doers.com or vinz_koller@spra.com. Kristin & Vinz