By: Maria Luna Issue: Collaborative Leadership Section: Business
Creating Scenius Is Key
Today’s new leaders are struggling to get through these grueling economic times. It often compels them to find new ways to manage. Strategies have shifted to focus on new priorities. Ignoring and/or covering up dangerous leadership practices have not worked and are rooted in some of the biggest business failures in recent history.
To some degree, “scenius” is an important catalyst in the development of a stable global economy. For this article, “scenius” is collaboration between passionate people. In general “scenius” is simply bringing together people to create a genius idea. To create long-term stability, leaders must recognize that “scenius” is imperative, as it supports an underlying frame of mind focused on an organization's most valuable resource—its people—and not just transaction quantity.
There is a new generation of leaders developing during this financial crisis that are focused on “scenius” in their management style. One such leader is Benedetta Piantella Simeonidis, co-founder of GROUND Lab. GROUND Lab is a Brooklyn-based firm specializing in software-hardware development, prototyping, specialty fabrication and interaction design. Because most of the GROUND Lab client base consists of universities, research groups, NGOs, and government agencies, they have experienced significant client budget cuts. With funding limitations and their clients carefully reviewing development investments, now more than ever, GROUND Lab must lead the company with a positive, realistic, and sustainable vision and plan. Building ideal teams means finding and developing leaders with bona fide skills, who are motivated and have potential. It is also just as important to cast aside those who are unable or unwilling to integrate with the team. There are four easy ways to enhance employee motivation including self-motivation, communication, and understanding employee needs. Most important, however, is providing clear policies and procedures for positive performance rewards. Simeonidis challenges herself to keep her team motivated and says, “Making sure that the company and the team perform at their absolute best and constantly deliver is my number one priority.”
"It's 100 percent paperless, a renewable and sustainable material and the purchase went directly towards protecting elephants in Sri Lanka. It was all I was looking for and more!"
Sustainability and environmental consciousness are additional key factors for GROUND Lab. Trying to maintain a “green” corporate footprint, the company reaches out to find new ways to get what they need. Case in point, Simeonidis recently changed her business cards from recycled paper products to a similar material made from elephant dung. “It's 100 percent paperless, a renewable and sustainable material and the purchase went directly towards protecting elephants in Sri Lanka. It was all I was looking for and more!” she said.
Author Lee Ann Runy suggests that leaders need to possess meaningful financial management skills. Because Simeonidis and her business partner have complementary skill sets, GROUND Lab is able to keep overhead costs low. “Every employee can lead and work collaboratively by providing each other with the expertise to become a sustainable business. While one is a project manager the other manages finances and administration. I honestly wasn’t expecting it to happen as soon as it did and especially not in a time of such economic crisis.” she says.
Simeonidis always wanted to start her own company and focus on projects that her “heart felt strongly about and solved real world problems.” GROUND Lab collaborated with UNICEF’s Innovation Unit at the New York headquarters in 2009 to test the idea of using a mobile, rugged, networked, battery powered device to collect accurate, high volume data from the research field rapidly and efficiently. She elaborates, “We engaged in a yearlong collaboration with multiple teams and offices at UNICEF and created three fully functioning devices that were delivered to the UNICEF Uganda Country Office for use in health clinics.”
“We engaged in a yearlong collaboration with multiple teams and offices at UNICEF and created three fully functioning devices that were delivered to the UNICEF Uganda Country Office for use in health clinics.”
These cutting-edge devices were programmed to diagnose malnutrition and other medical conditions in children and instantaneously transmit the patients’ records to a centralized database that UNICEF monitors. The GROUND Lab device also sent patient information to nearby health clinics, hospitals, and directly to the nearest doctor’s cellular phone via SMS text message.
The GROUND Lab business model was developed with the assumption of, “positively impacting community, through the creation of sustainable technology solutions to humanitarian, environmental and social challenges, worldwide.” In fact, the business participates in many nonprofit activities and collaborates actively with global nonprofit organizations that pursue the same humanitarian and social goals. Simeonidis has taken the “scenius” and implemented it to make a profit while helping the community.
One perk of co-founding a company is choosing interesting projects. Currently in the final stages of fundraising, this GROUND Lab project will use an open source GPS tracking system to track the last living lions in Kenya. The project originated from a previous collaboration by Justin Downs, co-founder of GROUND Lab, with two conservancy research groups in Kenya—the Living with Lions organization and Lion Guardians research group. While in Kenya, Downs observed the difficulties of using current technologies in the field when he decided to create a more flexible and accessible GPS-based lion tracking collar. “Because of the many inquires we have received from individuals, businesses and research institutions, we have widened the original scope of this project and are in the process of creating an open source platform that includes open software and hardware solutions that allow anyone to employ GPS tracking for any lawful application ranging from wildlife tracking to package and supply tracking.”
Obviously, the economy has taken a downturn and traditional management thinking has been reshuffled. There is a belief that this will result in upcoming leaders being more experienced in how to survive during tough times, but can also lead to a more stable future. Two factors in being a sustainable business are focusing on your employees' productivity and empowering them to create change effectively and intelligently while becoming leaders.