Fiddling while…the “audience” wanders off

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Some loosely connected thoughts about stakeholder engagement and accuracy of effort.

About the link between respectful engagement and the power to get things done: yesterday, I spoke with a man concerning an organization he was with that deeply involves volunteers in everything it does. He was telling me about a situation in which a certain decision regarding what stuff to sell, which usually involved volunteers, was taken on by staff one year for the sake of efficiency. Sales went down. Subsequently, the job was given back to the volunteers and the effort built back its steam. The man I was talking with said that there was really no difference in the stuff chosen to be sold; he was convinced the difference was in how the volunteers were consulted or not.

A story about engagement and accuracy: today, I wrote a newswire about Roger Frisch, a violinist from the Minnesota Symphony who had brain surgery to correct a palsy that was stopping him from performing. To make sure they got the correction exactly right, the surgeons had Frisch play a specially-contraptioned violin that would indicate when the palsy had stopped. In that way, the physicians were able to ensure that they had located the exact spot that needed to be stimulated for the palsy to be interrupted.

Besides the fact that this is the kind of tale that my father, who was a neurologist, might have told fifty years ago to a chorus of much eye-rolling skepticism among his audience (us), the story is intriguing insofar as it shows the vivid necessity of collaboration between patient and physician.

About engagement and innovation: my other newswire today was about a just-released study that looks at the differences between funding decisions (for theater projects) made by a crowd and those made by “experts.” Among other things, the researchers found that there was substantial agreement between the two groups, but they also found that the crowd (on Kickstarter) was willing to take more chances on good projects that fell outside of the comfort zone of the experts.

I find this fascinating, and although it is a small study, it may provide a peephole into the potential of eschewing expert-driven models of change and renewal in favor of models that emanate from informed communities with expert participation.

Just some thoughts. Please feel free to pile on with your own.