Case Study :: Open Door Mission

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The Open Door Mission is a nonprofit organization that works with the homeless and those most in need. Beyond simply meeting the physical need for a bed or a meal, the Open Door Mission offers many services to help people get back on their feet. They’re not simply a “homeless shelter”, but a mission-driven organization working hard for those that are less fortunate.

Thrive Development was honored to help support the Open Door in a recent building project as part of their aggressive and exciting capital campaign. For this new multi-purpose space, the client was seeking an audio/video system that was flexible, affordable, and rock solid in performance. The main room of the this new building can be divided into a dinning hall and a chapel, or used as one large area for banquets. The A/V system needed to support anything from a basic presentation with a laptop to a large band with lots of video and graphics. This project presented some unique challenges as well, such as a low ceiling and a very aggressive project schedule.

To support this opportunity we based our design around Crestron and Cobranet. We chose a Biamp Nexia for all audio processing and a Crestron Quick Media system for efficient and cost effective video distribution. The system included wireless microphones, three projectors with motorized screens, a portable audio mixing cart, and multiple audio and video inputs on the stage and walls throughout the space. Because conduit was scarce, we designed a system that moves 64 channels of audio and multiple independent video sources all over two simple cat-5 cables! The audio system is a point source with distributed ceiling speakers filling the back of the room. Using a custom control system, the client is able to operate a very powerful system with the simple press of a few carefully labeled buttons. It’s easy to use and incredibly flexible! Credit to Alley Poyner architects for a great facility design, Electronic Contracting for a top notch A/V installation, and The Open Door Mission for an impressive campaign.

Click here to see the full case study on this job!

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Collaborating with Google Docs

(This post originally appeared on Micah Yost’s Blog)

I’ve designed a lot of A/V systems for a lot of applications and they typically have one thing in common: a big screen. Usually it involves a projector, but sometimes a monitor or TV is sufficient. Conventional wisdom has always been that the only way to show something to a group for collaboration is to project it on a large scale. Whether it’s a projector in the boardroom showing a spreadsheet or a SMART board in the classroom with a drawing, display systems are designed to allow others to see what you are working on. But what if there was another way?

Enter Google Docs with it’s sharing ability. In Google Docs you can create and share drawings, documents, spreadsheets, charts, and even slide presentations. Creating all that content in the cloud and sharing it is great, but it get’s even better. That sharing happens in real time, which means if multiple people are logged into a document at the same time they can see those changes happening. It means instead of projecting that spreadsheet on a huge projector, everyone in the boardroom could just log into the same Google spreadsheet and see changes and annotations in real time. Have someone that needs to dial in remote to the meeting? No problem. They can simply conference call in (cheap) to listen and watch the presentation by logging into the same doc. Further, with the built in chat feature they can easily comment to the group.

How about the classroom? Could Google Docs takes on the infamous SMART board products? On some level they can. If you share a drawing, students can watch on a tablet or PC in real time as you draw, write, or color. Students can even interact with the drawing in real time right from their own tablets or computers. Further, this content is available later for students to review or show their friends. It opens up a whole new world to social learning. Or consider a “remote” for your projector. Project a Google Drawing on the large screen in the classroom and than pass around a tablet logged into the same drawing. Students can draw and interact with the screen right from their desk. No SMART products needed here, and about 20% of the cost.

To Better Serve Our Customers…

Over the past 18 months Thrive Development Group has existed to do one thing well, serve our customers. The very company was started because of a customer request for products and services that didn’t seem to exist. As the customer base has expanded for Thrive, the challenge has been to define and refine the products, services, and value we can offer. We don’t just want to compete with people, we want to offer products that are better than anything else available. We needed to find the sweet spot for Thrive.

Recently, it has become apparent that this sweet spot exists in technology, specifically in making technology approachable. Our most successful projects have been in helping both business and nonprofit clients organize around technology solutions. Our core values of leadership, learning, growth, and creativity will always remain. You’ll see these reflected in our blog and you’ll see them as part of service offerings. What we can do better than anyone else though is help you organize around technology solutions. Maybe you have need for better collaboration, training, project management, or creativity. Maybe your needs revolve around engaging social media and blogging, or possibly you are in need of audio/video technology that is rock solid and approachable. These are things we do well: rock solid, proven, approachable, technology solutions.

Technology is our sweet spot, and we’re sticking to it.

Military Strategy for Innovation

Dr. Thomas Barnett has been advising the US government on foreign policy and national security for some time now. A few years back Barnett spoke at TED, which is conference of leading minds and creatives, on military policy and battle procedure. Barnett explained that military strategists have long struggled with two seemingly opposing responsibilities. On one hand you have a force that must advance and gain new ground. The is the “take the hill” band of soldiers that is built, bread, and designed to advance and attack. On the other side of the coin you need to secure and occupy the ground that has already been taken. This is a significantly different task with significantly different requirements upon the soldiers.

Consider organizations and how they come about. A small business starts up and is reved to “take the hill”. Things are relatively low on complexity with little administration needed. Innovative risk is just part of the daily routine and creative thought is considered normal. Everyday is a risk, working to gain ground and advance the organization. At some point though you begin to require the ability to hold ground. Organizations make the switch from an advancing force with nothing to loose to a organization with ground to hold. It’s a mindset change that involves less risk and significantly greater administrative energy.  So things begin to drift from advance to occupy, and soon the advancement stops or significantly slows. Organizations can become a bloated occupying force, built exclusively to hold the hill with little ability or stomach for innovative risk.

With this in mind we can see why it can be so very difficult for existing organizations to embrace innovation or creative movement. Long standing organizations are full of administrative occupiers – and there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that. It isn’t the occupying that is wrong, it’s loosing the stomach for advancement that matters. You get a company with people wired to think about keeping the organization running, holding the position, and implementing structure, policy, and procedure to keep some sort of equilibrium. It’s important for leaders to understand that the clashes with innovation and creativity are often not simply a matter of “young, idealistic, kids and old, stick-in-the-mud, grandpas”. It’s a matter of “advancers” and “occupiers”. They’re different directives and it takes skill and understanding to manage these groups effectively. It’s why innovation is really a culture as much as anything. It’s developing that team of advancers who’s only concern is taking the hill.

As you drive innovation or creativity in your organization, remember that both sides are important. It’s important to hold the ground you have and advance on new territory. Doing so requires a delicate balance of administrative structure and risky innovation.

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Work/Life Balance

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and play, his labor and leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation… He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.”

-James Michener, Pulitzer Prize Winning Author 

 

More on the subject on my personal blog, here. What are your thoughts on work/life balance? I’d love your input.

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The Paradox of Influence

I’ve written before about my definition of leadership, which is influencing people to take action. While the “taking action” portion may be the part that is most unique to me, the influence part is possibly the most misunderstood part. I don’t think anyone who has a basic understanding of leadership would disagree that your can’t lead without influence. The intriguing thing about influence is that it’s a bit paradoxical. There is a counter intuitive quality to influence that has a tendency to send us running in the wrong direction and developing in the wrong areas.

Influence suggest others. It suggest working with others and having effect on their decisions and actions. For those of you who have read my writing for some time now you know that I often like to use definitions to help bring clarity, but Webster really isn’t much help to us here. If you go look for influence in the dictionary you’ll find a handful of ambiguous definitions with words like “power”, “spiritual”, and “intangible”. It seems that influence is a bit misleading to even those mysterious dictionary writer dudes, whoever they are.

So what does it mean to truly influence someone, and further, how might we develop it? How do we become more influential, thus increasing our leadership capacity? I think defining what influence is with words may be difficult, but most of know what it looks like. We have all been influenced by something or someone. It drives our actions and moves our decisions without direct mandate. We choose to buy something because we where influenced by a celebrity who has it, we choose to work somewhere because we are influenced by the culture or the history around it. Influence isn’t management. We don’t buy a sweater because someone comes on TV and just says, “buy this”. We do it because we have observed someone else do it who we respect or admire in some way.

You see, when you begin to explore influence you realize that it’s about having effect on others, but that effect on others is a result of who we are. The paradox of influence is that, though it suggests a focus on others, it’s really all about us. It’s about who we are, what we stand for, what we do or even what we don’t do. We are influenced by people who are what we want to become or who at least are what we respect. So influence is really about “being influential” as opposed to “having effect on others”. In the end the paradox involved with influence is that we have effect on others by developing ourselves. It’s the Ghandi quote, “be the change you want to see”. Influence is about leading the way, taking the first step, and developing in yourself what you want to see in others. It’s about integrity, honestly, and empathy.

Becoming a better leader involves gaining greater influence over those you would lead. Gaining greater influence involves becoming the person that those you lead can respect, admire, and pursue. Become a developer of others by developing yourself.

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Thrive is Getting Personal

I’m entering 2012 in a much different life situation than this time 2011, or anytime before. As a new father I’m finding my time to be much more in demand. Further, I’ve found that my personal organization has continued to drift into many different mediums. I journal on paper and in Evernote. I blog in WordPress and e-mail in both Outlook and Gmail. I am a HUGE whiteboard person! As I’ve continued to work in a more creative capacity, I’ve continued to discover that I’m incredibly visually oriented. I see things in pictures and often need to draw things out instead of write them down.

In November of 2010 I launched this company, Thrive Development Group. I intern launched a Facebook Page, Twitter Account, and Blog for this company as well. Since its launch I’ve had so amny fun opportunities to consult with organizations on topics like employee engagement and creativity. This has given me a specific opportunity to write and develop my skills related to my Masters Degree in Organizational Performance. I’ve met some great people and very much enjoyed this experience. I’m looking forward to many, many, more great things in the future through Thrive Development.

In 2012 I need to simplify. In short, I no longer have the time to support these multiple accounts and blogs. I blog in three different places with over 10 different social media accounts. Too much for a new dad. I’ve also found that keeping my life so segmented is really not providing anyone a full picture of me. Finally, there is an overall need for me to simplify my organization. I need to bring things together in my personal life and business life, my paper life and digital life, my whiteboard life and napkin life.

To accomplish this, I’ve decided to do a few new things in 2012. First, I’m going to organize around Google products. I’ve done some extensive research and testing of multiple applications and options. In the end, Google provides the best set of both features and simplification. Currently my Thrive Development and personal email are with Google, and this will remain the same. I will also be moving all calendars, personal and work related, to Google Calendar. This is in place of my multiple calendars now that exist on my phone and computer. Most of my document work will be moving to Google docs, as well as as other tasks such as storing photos of handwritten notes, pictures, and whiteboard sessions. Finally, and maybe most I importantly, I will be combining my blogs to one single blog powered by blogger (via Google), not WordPress. This means that the Thrive Blog and my personal blog will become one and the same, located at micahyost.blogpsot.com.

There will be much more information to come on the specifics of this move in the future. The important note for now is that my regular friends and followers of all my accounts and blogs will notice additional content and posts that you are probably not used to. Please know that I’m not changing what I post and write, I’m just putting it all in one spot. I’ll do my best to organize it so you can find what you are looking for. I’ll also do my best to not spam anyone with information you aren’t interested in.

If you follow @GroupThrive I encourage you to follow me at @MicahYost on Twitter. Also, I encourage you to friend me on Facebook in addition to the Thrive Development Facebook page. Thrive Development will certainly still exist, but will be much less active in favor of my personal accounts.

Over he next few weeks all blog posts will start to transition to micahyost.blogspot.com

If you e-mail subscribe to the Thrive Blog, please consider an e-mail subscription to micahyost.blogspot.com starting in February.

Keep moving forward!

Word of the Day: Intentional

Intentional means to do something on purpose, or with purpose. It means to be deliberate and measured in your approach. It would be the opposite of coasting along. It would stand in contrast to just letting things go or simply doing what we do for no particular reason. To be intentional is to be focused, resolute, and driven. It takes mental energy and tenacity.

I wonder how your leadership has been recently. Has it been intentional? Have you lead with purpose, taking measured and deliberate steps? Being intentional takes some serious mental energy but maybe it’s what your leadership needs as you close out the week. What areas of your leadership could use some renewed energy and focus this week? What has been coasting along that needs some fresh and intentional purpose to it?

This is my challenge for myself this week, so I’ll pose it to you as well. Infuse intentional purpose into your leadership this week. Find those things that need a fresh and focused approach. Don’t coast towards the end of the week. Lead well and lead with intentional purpose.

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Culture Never Sleeps

IBM attained its greatest success – and displayed its greatest ability to adapt to a changing world – during the same era that it displayed its strongest cult-like culture

-Jim Collins, Built to Last

Here’s an important piece of truth that we all need to agree on: everyone organization has a culture. Culture is like your personal health, it can be a lot of things but it has to be something and it’s always affecting you. You can’t have an absence of health. You can have bad health, good health, odd health, or young health, but you’ve got something and you can’t escape it. Likewise, your organization has culture. Your culture can be a lot of things, but you’ve got one. This brings us to a critical question on the subject: are you being intentional about your culture, or ignoring it?

If we accept the fact that every team, organization, business, and group has some sort of culture than we are forced with the decision to address or ignore it. There is no middle ground. You can’t just claim, “we don’t have one”. Of course you have one, and it’s even bigger than that. Culture has a massive affect on your organization. Right now as you read this, no matter what time it is or what is going on, your culture is having affect on the way your organization runs. It’s affecting the decisions people make and the actions (or lack there of) that they take. Right now your people are deciding if they should stay late, come in early, call in sick, “steal” a pencil, report unethical behavior, and even turn in their resignation. Like it or not, you don’t get the luxury of just not having a culture. You’ve got one, so you might as well make it work for you!

The first step is in this process is identifying the culture you have. This is difficult work. Often you’ll find that people “just know” what the culture is. It’s important to go further and define it. It’s important to understand it so you can understand what it’s doing for you or how it might be working against you. Secondly, you need to analyze culture against the values you want to have as an organization and against that the mission and vision you have set forth. Is your culture helping you achieve your mission, or could it possibly be working against you? How could it more effectively work for you?

Finally, consider assigning some sort of Chief Culture Officer. Now in some organizations this may be as big a job as it sounds, but in many small and medium sized organizations it’s not. You just need to find someone that is both excited about the future direction and is steeped in your “way of doing things”. Someone that understands your organization and understands people. Allow this person to have input into change, transition, and goal setting. This is the voice of culture around the conference table. Mind you, this person is not the “keeper of what is”, but a forward thinking and progressive person.

Remember, not matter how you choose to approach culture, the important thing is that you have one. Every group of people has a culture not matter the size. We have a responsibility as leaders to identify it and understand what it’s doing. Is it hurting you or helping you? How can you make culture work for you more effectively? The great thing about culture is it’s always working everywhere. It never sleeps. Make is work for you and you’ll leverage a powerful leadership tool.

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