A Lesson in Leadership: Don’t Lose Track of the Competition

August 4th, 2020

3 Northeast Indiana Analyses Showcase Economic Opportunities, Pitfalls

To my surprise, my ten-year-old grandson, Jack, reminded me of a principle in leadership. I am pretty sure he didn’t realize it, but he was spot on when he said, “Don’t lose track of the competition.”

Jack participated in the Fort Wayne Parks and Rec Pee Wee golf league this summer, and I signed on to be his personal caddie. While the pay wasn’t great, it was a privilege to “hang” with my grandson. It was an awesome time to listen and talk about all sorts of random, but pretty critical, thoughts for a ten-year-old.

His last event was a two-day tournament at McMillen Park. He finished the first day pretty much in the middle of the pack and had some real trouble around the greens and putting. Jack and I talked it over and agreed on a plan to cut a bunch of strokes from day two making sure to “get it in the hole” with only two putts for every green. The next morning, we were up early and headed to the course to warm up; practicing only on the short game.

The second round was a bunch of fun as Jack really improved around the greens and putting. We didn’t talk about the score much but kept our heads down, just focusing on the short game. Jack had made huge strides with only one and two-putt greens all the way around. We had a minor celebration on the last hole and headed off to see how he stood against his competitors. Then came the leadership lesson.

One-by-one the scores were posted, including Jack’s. Despite the remarkable improvement he had made over day one, he had fallen even further behind. On seeing the last score posted, Jack looks up at me and declares, “Papa, I have seen enough. Let’s go practice some more.”

There it was, a great reminder from Jack. Every once in a while, we need to check the competition. 

Despite the great progress we may be making, we need to come up for air to see if we are on course and keeping up. Are we really on track and making the progress required every day, every month and every year to reach our intended goals?

Jim Collins, a notable author, used the term “20-mile march” for making steady progress in good and bad times for great companies to produce sustainable, high-quality results over the long term. This is exactly what we must do as a region if we intend to achieve our transformative goals by the year 2030. Every year, year in and year out, we must make sufficient progress in personal per capita income, population growth and credential attainment if we are serious about transforming the economic growth of this region from the middle of the pack to top of the class.

While we have all been “hunkered down,” working hard, focused and paying attention to the pandemic to keep each other safe, we also need to continue to make progress getting our economy going again. We cannot afford to lose track of competitive communities across the country and around the globe.

At the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, we are currently engaged in three huge opportunities to provide insights into how others are doing and whether we are keeping up as a region. 

  • Wadley Donovan Gutshaw Consulting’s analysis of corporate office and professional operations
    • This corporate office operations analysis provides a comparative analysis of Northeast Indiana’s office space availability and professional services to benchmarked regions. With this analysis, we can leverage the region’s strong industries, existing workforce and higher education institutions to continue to target office operations and professional services opportunities for business attraction. Click here to read the executive summary.
  • TEConomy Cluster/Disruptor Analysis
    • This cluster analysis currently in progress provides a deep dive into the regional food and agriculture industry, specifically providing a horizontal examination of Northeast Indiana industry clusters for core competencies, emerging opportunities, convergences between industries and potential implications for disruptive technologies and current trends. 
  • GPS Statewide Study by the Brookings Institution
    • This analysis is being led by the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP), in partnership with Brookings, and will provide state leaders in all sectors the data and understanding to address the challenges and opportunities in the immediate future. As described by the CICP, this work has undoubtedly become more urgent in light of recent events. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic fallout coupled with recent civil unrest in response to our nation’s long struggle with issues of racial justice have amplified the need to build an economy that provides all Hoosiers with a future in which they can flourish.

While each of these analyses will provide diverse perspectives and will fulfill a variety of purposes, we cannot afford to miss the opportunity to lift our heads from the daily grind to see what is going on around us in a very competitive national and global marketplace. 

My grandson Jack’s revelation was important. Only by standing up his score side-by-side with others was he able to see he had better get back to work and turn up the heat.

I know, I know, many will tire quickly of additional studies and analyses. We cannot view these powerful studies as an end in themselves. We must use them as timely benchmarks to determine if we are comfortable with our current focus, strategies and rate of progress.

What are we already learning from this check of the scoreboard? Here are three important insights:

  1. Corporate Office and Professional Operations Analysis - Our region has a significant comparative opportunity to grow high-wage jobs in professional services like contract research organizations, managed service desk operations and medical claims and revenue cycle management. The region boasts strong skills in these areas while also offering a moderate cost of living and a high-quality, affordable lifestyle.
  2. TEConomy Cluster/Disruptor Analysis - Early results from the cluster/disruptor analysis affirm strong innovation in medical devices, discover new opportunities in advanced materials and showcase emerging strength in design and craftsmanship. At the same time, the study uncovers specific concerns in employment and wage growth for other sectors relative to national trends.
  3. GPS Statewide Study - Northeast Indiana productivity lags the nation in some very specific segments. To remain relevant, we must heed this warning call especially regarding the application of automation and technology in certain sectors.

Even as these timely studies are being prepared, the world has dramatically changed before our eyes because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In many ways, so much of what we relied upon as fundamental and true is open and subject to questioning. 

As my grandson Jack reminded me, we better be paying attention to our competition during these times of dramatic change.

While our vision for the region remains clear, it is very much up to us, together, to reimagine how we will create and define our future.

Northeast Indiana's Vision

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