By: Gayle Dendinger Issue: Conscious Capitalism Section: Inspirations
Two Cups of Coffee and a Starbucks Napkin
Sometimes inspiration comes in unexpected ways. For example, publishing ICOSA has been a great learning process. It has enabled us to contact some of the brightest and most interesting leaders in all fields of endeavor. Often, I am inspired by the research and great works of authors, teachers, connectors, and collaborators. With each magazine, I hope that we are inspiring people by sharing the stories of those that are making a real change. Great Guru’s That Inspire
ICOSA strives to share success stories, connect people and to explore and add credence to the concept of Connection and Collaboration. For inspiration I have referred to some of my favorite theorists - Michael Porter (Clusters), Warren Bennis (Great Groups), and Buckminster Fuller (Icosahedrons). These great leaders started with an idea, a seed of inspiration, and built on it with the help of others, to leave the world a little bit better place to live.
Dave Pollard, author of the article Great Leaders Are Led by Ideas asserts that great ideas are profound and frame-shaking. They quickly topple long held beliefs and transform our worldviews, our values and oftentimes our actions.
Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, examined the power of personal beliefs and the role they play in personal success. In the book, Hill notes that it is not how hard you work, but how smart you work and how good your ideas are. Hill also understood the power of groups in further developing his theory of the “Mastermind.” The Mastermind principle emphasizes that, "By integrating different ideas, coordinating the knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony, a third invisible intangible force is created, which may be likened to a third mind."
The Third Mind (Two Cups of Coffee and a Starbucks Napkin)
All great accomplishments start with a good idea and a whole lot of passion. Recently, a third mind was created by Jennifer Cook, Communications and Cultural Affairs Officer at the Consulate General of Canada in Denver and ICOSA editor, Jan Mazotti. Six months ago, armed only with two cups of coffee and a Starbucks napkin, they concocted a big hairy idea, help rebuild Kabul and Kandahar, Afghanistan.
This multi-nation collaborative began with the understanding that the Canadian Forces were on the ground in Kandahar primarily to stabilize and rebuild the region. Canada, as one of the top bilateral donors in Afghanistan, had six clear development and governance priorities that this project tried to address, including basic services and humanitarian aid, similar to the goals of the U.S. public reconstruction teams in Kabul.
So, over coffee, Jennifer and Jan explored the possibility of gathering and moving a plane-load of supplies to assist in the rebuilding efforts there. They set out to find the right collaborators and made the connections to them. They strategized about who they knew. How Jennifer, as a government liaison, served one core purpose, while Jan, as a community volunteer and business person, served another purpose. They reached out to non-profits, businesses, governments, militaries, and media to understand the issues and what could be done to help.
Collectively, they organized dozens of willing and motivated participants who graciously donated their products and services. These modern day heroes included the National Ski Areas Association, the U.S. Olympic Committee, MorningStar Development, Chapin Living Waters, Hope Seeds, Project C.U.R.E., the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, the U.S. Department of Defense Humanitarian Assistance Program, USAF 45th Sustainment Brigade, ISAF HQ USAF Chapel Branch, 7th TTSB, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Special Troops Battalion, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, Consulate General of Canada in Denver, NORAD, CIDA, JAKKS Pacific, Land Air Express, Canadian Forces, Gretchen Peters, John Moore, Brent Weaver, Lindsay Kough, Mark Alpert, and CAP Worldwide.
Gretchen Peters, author of “The Seeds of Terror” and a former ABC News correspondent (in Pakistan and Afghanistan for more than a decade), gave them perspective into the realities of “being on the ground.” She helped them understand the dynamics of the Taliban and al Qaeda and how their work could potentially put innocent people, both from the military and regular citizens, in harm’s way. Furthermore, these two women were ready to get on a plane and go to Afghanistan for the distribution. That’s when Gretchen looked at Jan and said, “If you HAVE to come home, don’t go.” They had to rethink the good idea.
“Working with this amazing group of people and organizations has been so satisfying,” said Mazotti. “We are all resolute in our desire to touch the lives of the people of Afghanistan while helping our troops maintain and defend the country. It is not about whether you agree or disagree with the war. It is about extending goodwill to another human being who has lost so much and who doesn’t want to be in the center of conflict either.”
In my mind, this effort demonstrates that when people are united through experiences and a clear strategy, even in an active war theatre halfway around the world, and fraught with danger but also with opportunity, willing individuals and organizations can do just about anything.
This was a tremendous example of resolve, persistence and tenacity that Jan and Jennifer never let up on. They ran into obstacles all along the way, from NGOs willing to distribute, to Customs paperwork issues in a war torn land, but were able to push through and get the job done. T.S. Eliot said it best, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
How many magazine editors can drive a fork lift, coordinate the logistics of all of the donors and write a magazine all at the same time? The pivotal component was the ability to secure an aircraft. Jan put out feelers in every direction from our friends at Project C.U.R.E. to Lindsay Kough a Denver-based banker and former military man, to Cheryl Jensen, a global philanthropist, who connected us to the Denton Program, the organization who will fly the goods to Kabul.
The result, over 100,000 people touched by the effort. Connections And Collaboration Really Works
Connection and Collaboration is worth more than money and the results can be priceless. By working together, these two women pulled disparate groups together, tapped into the expertise of numerous leaders and will hopefully make the world a better place for tens of thousands of people. This effort will have the effect of creating positive and hopefully sustainable change. When I asked the Ambassador of Canada in Afghanistan Ken Lewis if he thought that these efforts could actually make a difference he said, “Absolutely.”
The reality is that to permanently change such a complex situation is at best a long shot. But, if you don’t try, there is no chance. And while this group of doers cannot change the world, they will change the world for many people. As B.J. Palmer said, “We never know how far reaching something we do today will affect the lives of thousands of people tomorrow.” Do Something
We are now far enough into the process that we can put principles into action, create, and live our own stories. By providing a platform for sharing and most importantly executing ideas, we can realize these ideas with the help of collaborative partners.
Many people have good ideas but seldom do they execute them. This group of collaborators had a great idea that challenged long held beliefs about the region. Then, they coordinated a smart, connected group of organizations and people to execute the plan. This was a great collaborative idea, facilitated by a Mastermind Group that went to extraordinary lengths to produce world class results.
I believe it changed their worldviews. I know it has changed mine.