Unfettered Optimist

Posted on January 11, 2011 by 8 Comments

My New Year’s resolution is to Connect More. On a professional level this means not letting the size of Waggener Edstrom get in the way of truly connecting with our people around the world. First off, this implies an even greater logging of air miles because Face to Face is a key goal. By spending time in our offices around the world, as well as places where we don’t (yet) have an official presence, it enables me to share our vision for the future of communications most directly and effectively and, even more importantly, to hear from the variety of personalities, cultures and perspectives that you simply cannot fully appreciate if you remain stuck behind a desk.  In short, it helps make me a better CEO by providing a real, in-person means to learn, clarify, invent and unite with WE employees so they can do their best work with a clear understanding of what their efforts are building towards. Second, it implies a mastery of every tech tool that helps connect people from videoconferencing to the full range of social media. Last year I upped my use of Twitter; this year I’m starting my blog, which will reflect what I truly am, an Unfettered Optimist.

Unfettered: In September, I started a deliberate experiment as a full-time mobile worker and gave up my permanent office. The pictures of family and world travels, years’ worth of memorabilia and my comfy purple chair are all safely stored. By habit, when I go into my old space I stride quickly into the same location and promptly disturb the new tenants, who happen to be colleagues in our Social Innovation Practice. Because we are about to reinvent our Seattle-area office space AND expansion has put a real premium on space, my experiment is pragmatically well-timed.

At WE, we continue to build out our company globally. It is not easy, as any CEO will tell you, and while we are making good progress, there is much more we need to do. This global expansion combined with several new initiatives on top of the changing influence model and the growth in digital communications all add up to an age of continued evolution — no, transformation — for Waggener Edstrom.

All around me, inside our industry and broadly within business, governments and the social sectors, transformations are also occurring. I firmly believe that the key to successful transformation of any kind is Communications — that is, creating authentic, transparent, two-way engagement with colleagues, communities, even competitors, and of course friends and family. And there is simply NO WAY to do this by staying in one place; thus I am Unfettered.

Optimist: My dad says I can find inspiration under every rock; and over 100 people, both solicited and unsolicited used optimist to describe me. I just am. Specific to this time, though: I have never been more excited about the possibilities we all have to truly address world problems, with measurable success. People have never collectively been more focused. Everywhere you turn there is Social Innovation: innovation being applied to huge, intractable world problems in global health, global development and sustainability. Innovation in so many forms; innovative high-tech and low-tech products; new ideas; unconventional approaches; and innovative partnerships between groups that NEVER would have partnered before.

Most notably, individuals are stepping up and inventing what THEY can do, because everyone can make a difference. Last year, during the introduction of Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book, Half the Sky, I had dinner with Nick and he said certainly there is a role for those who have the resources to take innovation to SCALE, but another huge force in Social Innovation will be simply what individuals step up to do. I love that the stories of those individuals are being told with more frequency, by Nick and journalists, by organizations, and by the individuals themselves.

Five years ago if I had remarked that we are all connected, people might possibly have whispered how somewhat disconnected from business this concept of Global Interconnection might be. Nobody denies anymore that we are all interconnected and the big problems are Everyone’s Problems. So twice a month I will use my travels, and the time I get to spend with innovators, to share my own Unfettered Optimism, knowing full well that I must also remain rooted in realism.

And please take a look at my new blog’s archives; we have moved my previous posts on WE’s various blogs over here as well.

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Erik Bergman on January 11, 2011

Nice landscape photo! The acacia tree hung with weaver finch nests is such a typical East African scene. I recall many such sights from my travels in Sudan some decades ago. My optimism for the new year centers on Southern Sudan — the world’s newest country — and I hope the people there find liberty, health and peace. Inshallah, god willing, and with help from thiose who care, they will.

Tac Anderson on January 11, 2011

I look forward to reading about what you learn as you travel the World. One of the highlights and biggest learning opportunities I’ve had since joining Waggener Edstrom was going to help open our office in South Africa. Getting out there and connecting is so powerful.

Michele Clarke on January 11, 2011

We need a Like button. Well said.

Prof. Pierre Coupet on January 11, 2011

@ Melissa,

I came across your site and blog by accident. It takes a whole, whole lot to impress me, however, I am truly impressed and amazed at your “social innovation” bravado and taking the risk of mentioning that you’ve “given up your permanent office”, especially coming from a company that the general public-including me–would normally perceive as being an “old media dinosaur.”

Your emphasis on “doing” instead of just talking is surely refreshing. Setting up a Social Innovation Practice says it all and I commend you for doing what others only talk about because that is the conversation flavor of the month.

I’d be delighted to have you on our currently being developed VOMI Global Think Tank and Advisory Board. Just let me know where to send the invitation.

I wish you well in your own personal experiment and the SI practice. Keep up the good work.

Kindest regards,

Prof. Pierre Coupet
Founder, CEO & Doctor of Virtual Organization Management
Virtual Organization Management Institute
skype: VOMIChairman

melissa waggener zorkin on January 12, 2011

Thanks very much for your comments.

Tac: next up chickencam!

Prof. Coupet: I’ll send you mail, to learn more about your offer, thanks.

Mindy Haidle on January 12, 2011

Melissa! I’ve picked up on your optimism in the few times I’ve met you–excited to hear more of what you’re thinking. I love working at WE, but sometimes you feel so, so far away. Excited to bridge the gap. Best, Mindy

Claire Lematta on January 14, 2011

It is inspiring to work for a leader with your far seeing perspective of the world.
Congratulations on your new blog.

NT Misner on January 14, 2011

You truly *are* an unfettered optimist! Great title. Can’t wait to hear/read/see/view more! More video pleeeez!

Happy New Year, Nathan

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