Tuesday, July 8, 2014


In my role as the CEO of Imagine!, I believe that one of my most important functions is to ensure that Imagine! remains a learning organization.

Imagine! has a well deserved reputation locally, nationally, and even internationally as a leader in the field of serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I am convinced that one reason we have that reputation is because staff members at every level of the organization have a strong curiosity about what we do. They look at things and ask “why?” and explore new and unique solutions to challenges by asking “why not?” They want to learn new ideas and examine new approaches in everything they do.

Some of that curiosity exists at Imagine! because we have always been fortunate to have access to a highly educated and dedicated workforce. But that culture of curiosity, that desire to keep learning, isn’t something that just happens. It takes hard work and a willingness to let employees try new things, along with the acceptance that failure can be (and frequently is) part of that process.

So I always try to make an effort to model behavior that I believe will lead to a continuation of our tradition of curiosity and learning. When chatting casually with employees at the coffee machine, I will often ask “what have you learned today?” Although people are sometimes a little thrown off by the question, I find that it inevitably leads to a much more interesting conversation then if I just asked “how are you doing?” And I believe that if I do it enough, people will begin to pay more attention to what they are learning, and perhaps even go out of their way to learn something new.

Of course, if I want to try to model any behavior, I need to start with myself. So in addition to taking a little time at the end of each day to reflect on what I learned that day, I have added a couple of new goals: every day, I aim to go someplace new and to talk to someone I haven’t spoken with previously.

This might seem challenging at first, but I think when you look at it deeper you will find it isn’t all that difficult. If I really make the effort, I think that I could find several places new to visit just on the block where I live. Surely, then, if I open myself to exploring my neighborhood, my city, or my state, there are almost an infinite number of places I can go where I have never visited before. And it doesn’t take much effort to step outside of my comfort zone to introduce myself to someone new each day and engage in enough conversation to find out a little about their lives.

So heads up, Imagine! employees. The next time I see you, I may ask you what you have learned, or what new place you have visited lately, or who you have met recently. And I encourage you to ask me the same questions. During those conversations, please understand that I’m not trying to put you on the spot. Instead, I am trying to do my part to continue Imagine!’s 50-plus year tradition of thinking differently, asking hard questions, and using our curiosity as an avenue for exploring new and innovative ways to provide opportunities for the people we serve to participate in their communities in meaningful ways.

Then again, what do I know?

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