LeadingAge Magazine · March/April 2013 • Volume 03 • Number 02
I talked about innovation with a lot of people while putting together this issue. As you would guess from our theme, “A Mindset for Innovation,” most of those conversations had more to do with process than with specific innovations. Some people had a hard time separating the process from the achievements; others really enjoyed looking at it from an abstract viewpoint.

If all those conversations had a common underlying value, however, I think it would be courage. Everyone agreed that a central strategy in cultivating innovation is letting go—of rigid roles for staff, of comfortable ways of working, of the feeling of complete control over matters both large and small. As Flip author Peter Sheahan (interviewed for an article in this issue) would say, those who create a climate for innovation have to become comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity, and have to act with courage in the face of challenges even before they can develop a clear roadmap. (He would also say that such a roadmap might be a mythical creature, anyway.)

For reasons cultural, attitudinal, and not least, fiduciary, loosening that grip takes guts. It’s complicated by the fact that even the best new ideas can fail upon implementation for any number of reasons. That’s where the cohesion and collegiality of LeadingAge members comes in, as they share best practices and combine to innovate, and when needed, pick each other up when they’re in trouble.

This issue’s Vision column, “Identity and Purpose: Natural Prerequisites for Innovation,” is an interview with Dr. Stephen Judd, an IAHSA member from Australia. Judd’s book, Driven by Purpose: Charities That Make the Difference, asks some provocative questions about the purpose of not-for-profit organizations, and how a waning sense of identity can damage their ability to innovate for the benefit of seniors.

Innovation is too important to be left only to a few leaders, no matter how brilliant. See “Creating a Climate for Innovation” for a look at how several LeadingAge members built a culture of innovation that intentionally draws out the talents of staff at all levels.

In a field that’s heavily dependent on government funding and regulation, providers must advocate not only on bread-and-butter issues like funding levels; they must also push for innovative new programs and flexible ways of working. See “Breaking New Ground: Advocacy for Innovation” to see how some members are doing just that.

A new mechanism for jump-starting great new ideas, the LeadingAge Innovations Fund, is an exciting way for providers in our field to help each other innovate. For details on the Fund and a look at the first four grantees, read “LeadingAge Innovations Fund Helps Put Good Ideas Into Action.”

Creative Change in an Uncertain Time: Innovations Cabinet to Promote New Thinking Among Providers” is a title that says it all. We interviewed the co-chairs of the LeadingAge Innovations Cabinet about its priorities and possibilities.

Innovative new leadership is what the LeadingAge Leadership Academy is all about. An article written by a group of Academy Fellows, “Closing Gaps Between Seniors’ Needs And Providers’ Offerings,” aims to start a conversation about where our field needs to improve what it does for seniors and their families. The article is also tied to a session at the 2013 PEAK Leadership Summit.

Another PEAK-related article is this issue’s Innovations Department, where you can learn more about the work of Peter Sheahan, author of Flip and a speaker at PEAK.

Innovation doesn’t have to be an adults-only activity. Read “Students and Seniors Connect Across the Digital Divide” for the story of a great intergenerational program created by a remarkable teenager.

Last year we began our “well-rounded provider” series, offering profiles of long-established members that are using their traditional strengths to evolve for the future. Read “The Well-Rounded Provider: Excellence Marries Reinvention to Thrive in Changing Environments” for the stories of two unique and very different members.

Continuing a Life of Service” is the fourth in our series of articles on the amazing seniors who are the focus of our work. These member-written vignettes will introduce you to the seniors they love and serve, along with some remarkable staff members that make our organizations special.

Speaking of “picking each other up when they’re in trouble”: Read “Providers Fight Back When Mother Nature Comes Calling” for the stories of a few hard-hit members who rode out Hurricane Sandy and went to great lengths to protect and serve their residents and clients.

Top Ten Elements of a Comprehensive Life Enrichment Program” is a member-written article about an organization that is taking wellness programming to the next step, to benefit not only seniors but their families, neighbors and the surrounding community.