During the last five years Goodwill in central Indiana has experienced growth that has been far greater than I would have believed possible. From 2005 – 2010, a period that included the most severe recession since the 1930s, we added 1,000 employees and now employ nearly 2,400 people. I would not have imagined such growth.
Neither did I imagine in 2005 that within five years we would have opened a high school that generated so much interest there would be 1,300 prospective students on the waiting list. And I did not imagine that the fastest growing part of our organization in 2010 would be our ecommerce operations.
While my failure to imagine these developments is certainly profound evidence of how lousy I am at predicting the future, all of these examples have been a result of four factors:
- A significant increase in our pool of highly talented staff who not only have tremendous skills, but also a deep commitment to Goodwill’s mission and values. I believe that at some point in the last five years we achieved a critical mass of talent in depth as well as breadth, and those talented people are widely dispersed throughout our organization. We also had some capital to work with. When you have good human capital, add financial capital, and align those resources toward a worthwhile goal, good things can happen. (For those who are directly involved, this can also be a lot of fun.)
- The development and strengthening of relationships with many who, as individuals or through their organizations, have similar interests and complementary resources. By working together to leverage those resources in well-defined ways toward a common goal, we can sometimes create new or better approaches to solving social problems.
- Continuous learning – from others as well as from our own experiences.
- A strong financial position, without which we would most likely be more risk averse and without which we would not be able to invest in new opportunities that have potential to further enhance the accomplishment of our mission.
Summarized, we have experiences, learn, and make connections. Those experiences and connections often lead to new ideas and ways of combining strengths or using them in different ways. And as this process continues to repeat itself, the organization continues to evolve to higher levels with greater impact in the lives of people and in the larger community.