No 4-H educator strives for mediocrity. But all too often, successful proposals lead to grant funding and an increase membership. This is great! But beware of growth, it sweeps in and sets in motion a downward spiral toward mediocrity.
As a 4-H program grows, we as leaders put systems, processes and structures in place to deal with complicated issues that arise as part of scaling. It’s at this point that we risk losing our appetite for innovation that motivated us to win that funding in the first place. We might fall back on the belief that, “This is the way it has always been done,” or else resort to tired lessons from best practices at association conferences.
Although systems and best practices are important for successful scaling, if you apply too many at once you risk razing the innovative spark inside you. 4-H programs move from innovative to mediocre when they conform to the status quo instead of striving for innovation by moving quickly and pushing boundaries.
Now, as 4-H leaders we must remember the systems that made our programs successful to begin with. Similarly, we need to stay wakeful, lest our programs succumb to mediocrity.
Here are four tips to maintain a culture of innovation as your program grows:
As the grant funding rolls in for your 4-H program, keep innovation at the nucleus of your leadership to prevent slowing slipping into mediocrity. Examine the traditional best practices, but be sure they’re a proper fit for your team culture before applying them. This type of focus will keep your program firmly anchored in innovation.
This blog post was originally published on the 4-H Today Blog on March 14, 2016.
Paul Hill, Ph.D.
I design, plan, and evaluate economic development programs for Utah State University.
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