Why Every City Needs Chicago's 1871

Dec 23rd 2013

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I heard about the famed incubator named 1871 two dozen times over the past five years, but to work a full day at the location makes you rethink everything about organizational culture. We might have iHub in Louisville, but this is the real deal.
Recently, I accepted a Board of Directors role with one of the hottest healthcare startups anywhere in the U.S. The company, Caremerge, has won many awards and gained brand notoriety as a great example of the future of open-source, cloud-based, nimble startups. They have one of the first patient-engagement, care-coordination, cloud-based HIPAA solutions that is taking off very quickly.

Still trying to figure the best innovation methods within a larger organization, I just wanted to learn from the inside by someone who is really living the agile development method, doing rapid prototyping, operating under the virtual office model, utilizing a collaborative, shared-leadership approach and working at salaries that are probably half what they are making because they want to be pioneers on a bootstrap budget.
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Here how it works at 1871…
There are smart people everywhere, hanging out, writing code while they are talking with another innovator from another company sitting on the bean bag across from them. There is microlearning going on everywhere, classes on how to write code, hybrid webinars on the new node.js game-changer, thriving innovate teams everywhere using shared conference spaces with covered whiteboards, teleconferences with people all over the world and creative energy like I have never seen! All chasing independence and transformational learning, and no one wants a brass ring here!
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They talk in different measurements, product life cycles and collaborative dimensions. It took me hours to research the new vernacular and verbiage that were not something I have ever been immersed in, ever. They use different metrics, like, ‘startup expenses should only increase at 1/10 of the revenue growth rate or cut some more expense’… The org charts look like x-rays with multiple views of complex scenarios that are probability-based, and they manage resources without even thinking about ownership or control, just results and deadlines. No time for office politics or breaks. We went room to room during our Caremerge sessions as I thought, ‘how do we bottle this culture?’
Caremerge is moving at light speed, with a great culture creed that i wanted to share: Promote Happiness, GSD (Get Stuff Done), Global Citizenship Matters, Common Sense Prevails, Keep It Simple, Frugality In All Things, Everyone Sells, Meritocracy, No Drama, High Integrity, and please, Have Fun!
I had weird, alternative lifestyle visions, pondering that if I was 25 again, I would sell my old baseball cards, cash in my first communion money, along with my vintage vinyl album collection, move to Chicago and ask for the standard 1871 lease of $250 per month to be a part of it and plug into the cosmic energy that is based upon the unique juxtaposition of high personal uncertainty and minimal salary with the joy of being one of the new pioneers of the next U.S. gold rush.
But at 47, I am heading back to reality and help feed our sheep because our work is intense and utterly important at the Signature Revolution!

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