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.
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!
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!
Prior to COVID, I think we all felt like we spent more time with work, work partners and peers than our own families. Was it good or bad? For me, I worked with some of the most talented people in the country, so I loved it. And obviously I love my family too! I had the blessing to work with a friend, brother, Savant, Mensa member, and so much more for nearly a decade and a half – Stephen Stocksdale. To say he was talented with an amazing range is honestly a great understatement in a world full of the opposite. Stephen did so much intellectually, professionally, and personally that for the first three years of working with him, I assumed it “all could not be true”. But time and time again I learned the opposite was true. He served our mission-based organization in every role (field leader, controller, administrator, VP, strategy, consultant, start-ups, etc.) and whatever else we asked of him. Despite having more professional success himself, he just wanted to help us grow in all ways.
One day 5 ½ years ago, Stephen was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and we grieved with him as you would expect. But he was a determined guy and decided to not just learn all he could about cancer, but to master it. He decided there had to be a path he could carve out for himself that no doctor had considered, or he would locate new research that would help him beat it. With a scientific mind and unparalleled IQ, he found a clinical trial he was approved to get in. This trial’s treatment regimen was so potent, and Stephen was the only one that survived. He learned about transfusions, blood structures, and cancer interventions. Cancer kicked his ass often, but he always beat it back up and won again!
We cheered, prayed, and cried often over the past years, but learned three great lessons from Stephen that we all cherish today:
- “Be a Lifelong Learner” because we can always master new things and age is just a number, but lifelong learners never get old. Stephen mastered EMT services, police work, cancer research, hospital administration, heart transplant programs, high level statistical methods, travel, long term care, teaching, and many other degrees, certifications, and accomplishments over 65 years, so let’s all keep Learning and keep growing!
- “Never Give Up” because we grow everyone around us in our struggles and sufferings in ways that impact everyone around us and Stephen knew that and wanted us to get stronger, be more grateful and relearn presence, which we all did! When he came back home, he rarely missed a day at the office and taught all of us new things daily up until the moment he passed last week.
- “GOD IS SO REAL” Stephen had historical expertise on religions, studied theological premises, and had a metaphysical outlook, but in this battle, he felt like he met the Lord and had to share it with all of us. He knew he beat something that is nearly unbeatable, and he wanted time to share his story, his walk, and his private time with the Lord. He watched prayer groups with people he barely knew praying 24/7 that he receives a miracle, and he did receive one that he could share with all of us.
Our organization is going through a very painful time as a mid-size nursing home organization that has stakeholders who worked under unbelievable stress and pressure for so long and had to endure seeing some of our residents pass away. We have lost half of our team, and we are still trying to rebuild stronger and better. I think after serving through the pandemic for 2 ½ years and struggling with how to bring it all back together in this changing workplace and overworked healthcare system, and after suffering so much pulsating unknowns for so long, it was Stephen who gave us the best reason to not look back. He taught us to enjoy the struggle as something that can deepen us all and stay prayerful that God is with us during times like these. We need to rebuild and have new passion as learners, which Stephen demonstrated everyday making our lift just a little easier. And lastly, when you beat cancer four times and die from something else, how could we ever give up? It’s time for us to just “STOCKSDALE IT” and grow by learning, fighting harder and believing in our purpose!
Stephen’s office will remain untouched for now because when he left work on Monday with his ambitious assignments on his wall, we never knew we would not see him again. However, we can certainly feel his presence and we are all better people for his amazing lessons that he taught us until his last hour!