Something Ventured

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I had the opportunity to rub elbows with movers and shakers at the 14th Annual Corporate Venturing and Innovation Partnering Conference at the the Island Hotel.

The likes of Chevron, Intel, Coca Cola, Motorola, Nestle, Shell, Google, Honda, Nike, oh my.

This is a must-attend for any corporation that utilizes in-house teams and funding to establish deal flow to ensure critical technology and core competencies are enhanced by acquiring innovation, establishing competitive advantage, investing in the incubation of potential disruptive technologies, or a neverending search to identify that special ingredient to leapfrog competitors.

I listened with fascination to the discussions about how to formulate the team.  How to prevent the territorial protection of an in house R&D department.  How to manage expectations of leadership.  How to make sure you make a partisan and ally out of the CFO, and not an enemy.

My mind started wandering, as it often does.  This process and deliberation sounded familiar.  I started imagining the city of Newport Beach was a corporation, like the folks at the roundtable.  There was a group of in-house experts, yet presenting issues necessitated consideration of external resources and efforts.

Could this model of Corporate Venturing be tailored to Community Venturing or Civic Venturing?  The answer is that it already has been, in several shapes and forms.  Newport Beach has Planning and Parks commissions.  But also, in a dynamic service-plus-plus City, there is the Arts and Harbor commissions.  All standing commissions.

Former Mayor Keith Curry commissioned a temporary task force in the Citizens Technology Task Force.  This vision was to gather subject-matter experts from the community, put them together with city staff, and wrap minds and arms around a specific topic in a defined period with the work product or deliverable being a recommendation to the City Council.

The opportunity is to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the business process, which resulted in a recommendation to the council that an five-year IT strategic plan be developed, with a road map provided.

Author Jim Collins, in his book “Good to Great,” suggests a process using the analogy of a bus.  Before you decide where the bus should drive, you need to decide who gets on the bus:  “First who, then where.”

All commissions and task forces are fine examples of Newport Beach’s enviable position of being able to draw upon the extraordinary talent pool that resides in the city (the “who”) and temporarily apply, or venture, that human capital to achieve a desired outcome beneficial to the city (“where”).

The opportunity to put a Tony Petros, local titan of the transportation industry on the Bicycle Safety Task Force.  The city could not afford the thought capital in the open market, but benefits from a resident investing – venturing – in his community.

These actions by the City Council and the historical responses of the community meet a broad definition of sustainability, beyond tree hugging, more like the community venturing in the days of barn raisings.

If something is ventured, what then is the gain?  Profit is returned in the form of quality of life and a sense of community.  A chance to participate in civic affairs for the benefit of your neighborhood.  A chance at a legacy, to preserve and enhance a city for generations to come.

What are the options for inspired action to bundle your energy and subject matter expertise within the city?  I will leave you with a story.

I once asked my pastor about the challenges of running a church.  He indicated that people would constantly approach him, and tell him what they thought needed to be done.  Very few asked him what help he needed, to get done what is necessary.

Ergo, go ask a Councilmember how you can participate and help an existing project.  Go ask City Manager Dave Kiff where he opportunities are to venture your human capital into the city.  Form your own neighborhood venture capital team around safety or another outcome for the public good.

Lastly, if you are a CEO or leader of a large company, residing in Newport Beach, and there are many, do not miss next year’s corporate venturing conference, nor the chance at community venturing in Newport Beach.

Send ideas for Green Stories to [email protected]

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