I come across so many great conversations, ideas, and resources all over the web every day. Here are some of the most interesting things I’ve found recently (as of December 15th). You can join the conversations in the comments, or click through to the original posts to find what others are saying.

To follow more of the things I find online, you can follow @amysampleward on Twitter (which is just a blog and resource feed), or find me on Delicious (for all kinds of bookmarks).

  • FT.com / Weekend columnists / Tim Harford – Perhaps microfinance isn’t such a big deal after all – "Last December, I showed some unwitting prescience by worrying about a backlash against microfinance, the practice of providing small loans – or perhaps savings products or insurance – to poor people. I fretted that there was little compelling evidence that it worked. A year later, the evidence is arriving and the backlash has begun. The Boston Globe published an article in September, subtitled, “Billions of dollars and a Nobel Prize later, it looks like ‘microlending’ doesn’t actually do much to fight poverty.” " – I'm interested to hear what you all think about this issue, especially now during the 'giving season.'
  • Open Source Is Dead! Long Live Open Source! | NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network – "That's right, I said it. Promise to read the rest of this before you send me hate mail, though. What I mean is that open source, as we knew it, is dead. For the last decade, what we've been talking about when we say "open source" is "open code" — a set of zeroes and ones that we can configure to our heart's desire."
  • Net2 Think Tank Round-Up: Best of 2009 | NetSquared, an initiative of TechSoupGlobal.org – Check out the diverse submissions to the December Net2 Think Tank that simply asked for the best blog posts of 2009! I'm sure there are some resources, conversations and pointers in here that are new to everyone.
  • What Matters Now eBook – Get the ebook now for free! "We want to shake things up. More than seventy extraordinary authors and thinkers contributed to this ebook. It's designed to make you sit up and think, to change your new year's resolutions, to foster some difficult conversations with your team."
  • Orchestras and Social Media Survey: Key Findings and Full Report | Dutch Perspective by Marc van Bree – "In short, the survey found that social media activities, familiarity and usage seem to be widespread among orchestras. Managers find social media important and organizations are generally enthusiastic. However, the efforts are far from organized and strategic. It seems many orchestras are dipping their feet in the social media pool, but do not have the policies, budgets, and metrics in place to effectively use the tools at their disposal, even if they do recognize the need for checks and balances."
Great reads from around the web on December 15th
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  • There are times I value people for giving me thoughtful and beneficial first-hand information. Then, there are times I value people for pointing me to other people with thoughtful and beneficial first-hand information. Thanks for doing both. The “What Matters Now” text is a fabulous resource. What I like most about it is simply the message of change. Whether we need to change or want to change, there’s an underlying, proactive message that says life can be better. I like that, and I think that’s a powerful message going in to 2010. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction.

    • Thank you for such kind words, Scott! I’m so happy to lay trail markers as I hike around the web and think that’s one of the most powerful and valuable actions bloggers and “share-ers” can take in order to continue bookmarking and indexing the web for others.

      I look forward to hearing what you think of the ebook after you read it and if you have any other similar pointers to share for others!

      Thanks again 🙂

      • I found immediate relevance for two ideas in the nonprofit world. The first relates to Page 7: Hagy’s Facts diagram. I was reminded of a recent front page Chronicle of Philanthropy article (November, 2009) that essentially said that many nonprofits have not made the “radical” changes necessary to confront the financial challenges of 2010. I am concerned that a lot of nonprofits have bought into the financial “stormy weather” metaphor, and are just “hunkering down” and waiting for it to “blow over.” From what I’m reading, though, that’s not going to work for survival. And that worries me. I wrote a piece (http://tinyurl.com/yjs4hfu) suggesting a “radical” new approach to how nonprofits can consider organizing themselves and building on what retired business professor, Charlie Ehin, calls their “sweet spot.”

        My article relates to Page 43: Balter’s article on “Dumb”: Specifically, in the nonprofit world, we are our biggest asset. Every stakeholder in a nonprofit has valuable knowledge and experience that, IF tapped (big IF), can provide the innovative thinking to transcend the economic challenges. Unfortunately, many organizations don’t run in a way that allows the voice of all their employees to be heard. Instead, a program manager or director may try to “control” the direction of the company, and rely on their own intellectual resources to try to manage the challenges. If challenges are small, that’s fine. But when challenges are big–as they are now for nonprofits–leaders need to leverage the intellectual and experiential resources of everyone within their organization. When “Dumb” ideas from everyone can be shared honestly and openly, organizations can generate new ideas and innovations that have the potential to literally save their organizations. Every conversation holds the potential spark of creativity and radical new thinking that may provide the ray of hope in what may otherwise be a fairly cloudy forecast. Every person of each organization–regardless of position on a formal organizational chart–can spark a conversation, that fuels a thought, that changes how the organization runs, that has a greater impact in the community, and that ultimately changes the world. It’s the whole “butterfly effect.”

        I’d love to hear your thoughts, or others’ thoughts about the kind of “radical” changes that nonprofits might need to make in 2010. This implies, obviously, the belief that they do need to make radical changes. Any thoughts appreciated.

        • Hi Scott-

          Thanks for such a thoughtful comment!

          I’ve pinged Hildy Gottleib to see if she has any thoughts as well 🙂

          (I was going to include your Sweet Spot post in a Great Reads round up but it doesn’t appear to allow comments, and I generally only link to conversations elsewhere that people can comment on, etc. – let me know if I missed it!)

          I definitely agree that “radical” (obviously we would need to agree on how that is defined!) changes are required if organizations want to start working, functioning and communicating differently. There’s no switch, things have to actually change. Before people can start voicing ideas and making suggestions—spurring the butterfly effect as you note—I think that organizations have to first create a work space where people are even aware of what each other does! Far more organizations that I meet with than I would like to admit have a work culture where people really only know what they are doing and perhaps those on their immediate team. But, organizations that have tackled this issue both through creative approaches to organizational charts and to communication, like JustGiving, have enabled staff to share in real-time with each other what they are working on. JG uses yammer for example, but there are many other ways, not even just techy ways, that organizations can start opening up communication channels across teams, across cubicle walls, and so on.

          Thanks for sharing!

          • I liked your phrase of “create a work space where people are even aware of what each other does.” That statement reflects our tendency to categorize people by department or functions and keep them there, without recognizing the value in bringing the differences together.

            I like to refer to the sweet spot as collaboration on steroids. It sounds cliche, but it’s amazing what can happen when people come together to find solutions. For lack of a better way to say it, there are “collaborative efforts” and then there are “Collaborative Efforts.” As part of my work responsibilities, I’m undertaking a cultural shift with our CEO to create a “sweet spot” organization. Fortunately, I’m working with organizational leaders who are (for the most part!) comfortable with letting go of control as needed, and allowing others to step-up and lead based on competency and experience, and not because of formal titles.

            Anyway, I re-posted my article on my blog (go to http://tinyurl.com/yhpktdl). I’d love to hear others’ ideas about the “radical” solutions they are pursuing, as well as their own “sweet spot” outcomes.

          • Hi Amy,

            Here is a link to an article that defines the organizational sweet spot a little more– C:\Documents and Settings\C Ehin.EHINDELL\My Documents\Sweet Spot\Utah CEO.mht.

            Cheers,
            Charlie

          • Hi Charlie-

            Thanks so much for joining in and sharing the link! Really appreciate it (always hard to wrangle resources across the web!).

  • Hi Charlie-

    Fun to see you in here. I’m looking forward to our meeting next week. The article you posted here isn’t linked as it needs to be. Can you make it available on your website (which, by the way is http://www.unmanagement.com/ for any who are interested)? Or, if you’d like, and if it’s fairly short or there is a portion I could highlight, I could post it on my blog (http://www.clienttrack.com/wordpress/)

    • Scott, here is the full text of my Utah CEO magazine article. Short and sweet!

      Process of Innovation
      Finding and nurturing the organizational sweet spot.
      by Charles Ehin

      For two decades I have been investigating the fundamental interplay of how individual and group behaviors relate to the capacity of an organization or a social network to innovate.

      By examining anthropology and paleontology, I discovered that our hunter-gatherer ancestors had managed quite well for much of the roughly 200,000-year existence of our species without the use of any rigid hierarchical social structures.

      Next I delved into sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, and then molecular biology, social neuroscience and complex adaptive systems. In general, what has become clear is that biological entities, including humans, cannot and should not be overly controlled, because they are emergent and constantly evolving complex adaptive systems.

      For innovation to thrive, people need to be immersed in flexible social environments. It therefore should come as no surprise that traditional management concepts seldom work any longer, especially when it comes to knowledge workers. This is due mainly to the continued use of cause-and-effect constructs. But people are not machines. They are organic self-organizing entities.

      If we want to expand the innovative capacities of our organizations, we need to pay closer attention to human nature. Reinventing traditional methodologies will not help us advance any further. The new science of the brain and DNA is helping to rewrite not only the origins, but also the innate behavior of humans. That’s where management should also focus.

      Knowledge workers, as opposed to “industrial age” employees, are an investment rather than an expense because they carry their own means of production — their smarts — with them. They need to be treated as partners, not as hired hands. As partners, knowledge workers are more likely to share their tacit knowledge with their colleagues. Therefore, for tacit knowledge to properly emerge, people must first be surrounded by a supportive environment.

      We need to develop organizations that continually nurture the collaborative best from all members because tacit knowledge cannot be “managed out” of people. It must be allowed to emerge from mutually beneficial relationships. The more people are given a voice and implicit control in managing a venture, the more the informal networks that are present in every entity will begin to more openly support organizational goals.

      Under the right conditions, the informal components will begin to overlap more and more with the formal elements of an organization. This point of overlap is where an organization’s formal and informal systems have reached “a meeting of the minds” regarding fundamental organizational goals and processes.

      I have labeled this place of common agreement the “organizational sweet spot.” It is a natural outgrowth of day-to-day interactions or self-organization by those that represent both management and the informal networks of a given venture. The larger the overlapping area, the more engaged and productive people are.

      When traditional approaches fail to bring success, more pragmatic approaches must be created. Multiple perspectives consistently lead to more insightful solutions than by simply putting new faces on old, failed concepts. Ultimately, it’s all about knowing how to support the expansion of organizational sweet spots.

      Charles Ehin is a management and innovation expert. He is emeritus professor of management at Westminster College in Salt Lake City where he also served as the dean of the Gore School of Business. He is the author of The Organizational Sweet Spot: Engaging the Innovative Dynamics of Your Social Networks (Springer, 2009), among other titles. Contact him at kalev1@msn.com or visit http://www.UnManagement.com.

  • Charlie- I just found the article you were referring to on your website. It is stored atat http://www.utahceomagazine.com/article.php?id=376 .

    • Hi Scott-

      Thanks so much for helping curate the resources in the conversation – really appreciate you coming back to include the link!