Tag Archives: teamwork

Leadership Lessons I Learned at Day Camp

I volunteered recently at a day camp for boys ages 7-10 and learned a lot more than just how to be a kid again. I created an obstacle course that presented challenges for each boy. As the boys came through my station and worked through the challenges, I saw some important management principles emerge. I want to share those unexpected lessons with you.

Ownership is King

I set up the obstacle course ahead of time and it included things such as a rope bridge, a rope swing, tires to crawl through and various other obstacles. This was my design and the boys enjoyed it. After the first couple of days I allowed them to make modifications to my design. Of course, some of the modifications would have caused great injury had I allowed them but such is the nature of a young boy.

I realized that as they changed the design to fit their tastes, they became more invested in the obstacle course. Comments changed from “great course” to “best obstacle course ever!” because it was now their course and not mine. As managers, are we guilty of handing down a vision or a scripted playbook for employees to carry out without giving them ownership of their work? Would they be more motivated if they had a hand in designing their own processes? Would they feel more invested if they contributed to the vision rather than simply executing it? Perhaps stronger ownership would lead to comments such as “this is the greatest workplace ever.”

The Suggestion Box

I told the boys early on that I would welcome suggestions for improving the course. I am not sure they took me seriously but they did offer several suggestions. Some were simple changes that I could make overnight and some were incredibly complicated and would have required super powers. I made the changes I could and the boys were surprised and delighted to find their ideas incorporated into the course. As they saw the changes they pointed out their ideas. One boy even suggested water balloons throughout the course and went so far as to bring some balloons to fill. He was totally invested in the outcome. In short, I took the ideas in the suggestion box seriously. As managers, do we welcome suggestions and try to implement them as we can? Extra effort in this area could result in more motivated employees.

Cooperation Increases Productivity

I allowed groups of boys to modify the course to fit their interests. I found the groups fell into two categories, those who agreed and executed the plan and those who were fractured and could not get beyond arguing about who was right. Those who agreed to work together had a lot more time to enjoy the fruits of their labor, but some groups never even got off the starting line. They split into factions that each tried to implement their own vision. I realized that while it is important to create and execute a shared long-term vision, it has a definite impact on short-term productivity. The longer it takes to agree on the future, the more it impacts current work. Does your team have a solid vision and is everyone working toward that future or do you still have factions trying to move in a different direction?


I never thought I would relate day camp to management principles but the parallels I found while observing the boys were unmistakable. I thought I was going to enjoy a week of sunshine and interacting with youth, and I did, but I also came away with new leadership and management insights.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Anatomy of a Startup–Part 1

I have been thinking recently about startups and the technology and information strategy around startups. This blog post will cover the basics of a startup and my next blog post will cover the information technology structure needed to accompany a successful startup. Technology needs change constantly, and I believe that it is easier than ever to start a new enterprise.

The Three Most Important Components

I believe that the three most important components of a startup are:

  • An insanely great idea
  • Awesome people
  • Enough money to get your idea off the ground

And, of course, a solid business plan, to pull all three of these together.

Great Ideas Are Out There

This is the most important component. Your product or service must be something that customers actually want. There are at least two different types of great ideas. There are those that are disruptive, or completely change the way that we live or do business and those that are innovations and improvements of existing products. An example of a disruption is the smart phone which is several devices all built into one mobile unit. You can talk, chat, e-mail, or browse the web while walking down the street. How cool is that? An example of an innovation is Google. Search engines existed before Google but they improved the process.

The Best People

Surround yourself with smart people who share a passion for your product or service. Involve them from the very start and let them help you formulate the startup plan. Look through your social media contacts to find people that have the time, talent, passion, and energy to help you succeed. After all, you have all those Facebook friends for a reason, right?


There are several ways that you can fund your new endeavor. One way is self- funding which means digging into savings, or by funding the second unit from the first unit’s profit, and so on. This can be a slow process and can deplete your own reserves quickly. The second approach is to use angel investors who can be family members or others willing to put up money in exchange for a share of your success. The third approach is a venture capitalist that can be persuaded to lend you large sums of money to go big. In return for venture capital, however, you often turn over portions of your rights to the idea and to the company.


In my next blog post I will talk about the information technology strategy needed for a startup. What infrastructure do you really need to start a new company and what is the most efficient and cost effective way to get your name, your idea, and your product out in the public eye?

Do you have an insanely great idea that you think others would want? Have you ever thought of going big enough to be able to put that idea into production? What is your biggest obstacle? Let me know your thoughts and ideas.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.