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Potato Chips

At the beginning of Hazen Pingree’s 1895 book, Facts and Opinions, is a potato. On the potato is a dedication: “To the great masses of American people this book is respectfully dedicated” – H.S. Pingree.

Why did he write his dedication on a potato? Pingree was possibly most famous for his work related to putting unemployed citizens of Detroit to work cultivating potato patches. His dedication, therefore, serves as a reminder for the masses, of his passion for improvement and for trying something new.  Book dedications can run the gamut in terms of purpose. My dissertation dedication was “to those willing to challenge the status quo”; I have a long history of interest in change, and similar to Pingree, I have a passion for those who are willing to try something new – encouragement to challenge the status quo. 

The concept of dedication (as in commitment), a self-sacrifice or loyalty to someone or something, emerges from a heartfelt place in writing. And regardless of a where (or on what) a dedication is inked, there is thankfulness and energy for sharing surrounding it. And, rather than a potato, a blog (along with podcasts, illustrations, etc.) is one way to thank and to share.

Motivations for Blogging

One timeline suggests that blogs emerged in 1994, and reasons for blogging vary. A 2010 article in New Media & Society, focused on political bloggers, mentions a reason for blogging that stands out to me: it’s about the importance of providing an alternative perspective to the mainstream, a perspective that is more than mere rehash. We find ourselves back at this idea of challenging the status quo. That different perspective is an important principle to me and is part of my core self. I’m eager, on a daily basis, to learn something new, and I can’t remember a time when that wasn’t the case. I’m dedicated to this idea of continuous change and ongoing learning.

It’s interesting then that, in the aforementioned 2010 article, the largest positive change related to an initial reason for blogging versus current reasons for blogging centered on providing alternative perspectives. That is to say, there is possibly an  ongoing need – recognized by bloggers over time as they blog – for fresh and the innovative voices that provide new thoughts around the application of ideas, based on logic, data, and situation. This need is especially apparent in organizations where we sometimes don’t observe a willingness to try something new or, alternatively, often observe the same mistakes repeated time and time again. My own memories, and stories of memories as others have recounted them, will be different from your own memories or recollections of others’ stories. That is to say, we may all have very different accounts of organizational experiences, but all of those stories still probably share similar feelings of frustration and annoyance; and often that frustration is produced by organizations choosing to avoid change.

Key Questions: What are you dedicated to? What are you passionate about? What will energize you to challenge the status quo of your organization?

Key Takeaway: Challenge the status quo. Contribute an alternative to what is currently published or available. Push back with ideas for how your organization can change for the better. Make sure you are giving back, as a part of your professional identity, and based on your guiding principles.

Even when there are frustrating moments, there are usually also moments in organizations where we have feelings of job dedication. From a research perspective, job dedication tends to refer to actions taken beyond the role, and relate to conscientiousness and being a good organizational citizen who provides the informal effort.  That’s not quite what I have in mind when I think of job dedication. Professionalism comes closer to defining the idea that I’m trying to describe. Underlying ideas of specialized knowledge, competency, honesty and integrity, accountability, and self-regulation all help form my image of job dedication. Still … not quite enough to reach my standard for dedication. For me, dedication has to have a stubborn persistence to learn and share, in relation to the job. That’s an essential piece of challenging the status quo.

Innovators of Change Blog

So, why has this blog come into existence? Truth be told, this blog has been a very long time in the making. But a big reason for starting this blog now is a confluence of a particular type of recent work I’ve done around organizational change, conversations with certain others in the field who have encouraged me and tried to influence me that sharing knowledge is more of a professional obligation than maybe even I considered, and my success in pulling together a team that inspires confidence in me that I can maintain a blog at the quality level I desire. 

Dedication, as in commitment, is an act of professionalism, taking your specialized knowledge and sharing it. As with my dissertation dedication, the idea for this blog stems from challenging the status quo. That is to say that my hope is to provide thought-provoking alternative perspectives on issues related to people and organizations. 

I have appreciation for what I’ve been able to learn about organizations and who I’ve been able to learn from, and for those who have helped me build confidence in challenging the status quo. It’s my hope, then, that I’ll be able to highlight my appreciation for excellence, hope, and humor through each blog narrative. Please read this blog, and its associated content, as an ode to you, in hopes of causing you to think, challenge, and change. 

A Broader – And Yet Closer – Look At Pingree’s Dedication

There were larger factors at play in Pingree’s implementation of potato patches. In his book, Pingree points out: “Were we not so wedded to the existing conditions and methods, we would at once see the incongruity of the situation, which makes it possible for thousands of people in large cities to live in a state of semi-starvation in times when thrown out of employment, and a smaller number living continuously so.” Wow! When I teach Organizational Change at the graduate level, students tend to pay attention to the W. Edwards Deming quote at the beginning of one of the articles we cover: “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” While the quote should probably be more of an idea than a quote, as Deming seemingly never wrote this line, the concept is powerful. And Pingree, many years earlier, gravitates to the same idea.  How can we accept starvation when, if we were willing to change, a viable solution that goes towards solving not only starvation, but additional items like self-respect, pride, and life satisfaction exists and is attainable?  This speaks to the heart of organizational change. There is importance to recognizing a situation – what’s going on in the external environment – and developing the organization towards a better congruence.

Pingree — pictured here on the bottom right in the front — challenging the status quo.

Pingree also recounts that other large cities imitated the success of Detroit, but other cities failed. He attributes the failure to a lack of someone to manage the process, stating, “It cannot be denied that much depends upon a proper manager, one who can organize and oversee and is willing to work hard in order to carry it to a success.” In other words, leadership also needs to be continually developed to carry out successful change. Leadership must be professional. Leadership must be dedicated.This is a blog about organizational change and leadership. And, every once in a while, we’ll write about potatoes.

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