Thinking Beyond County Lines

Every year, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs hosts the Georgia Academy for Economic Development for each region in Georgia. It is estimated that over 7,000 professionals have graduated from the program since its founding in 1993. This program is unique in that it does not only caters to professional economic developers, rather it welcomes all citizens who want to learn about economic development and foster growth in their communities.

This year we sent our newest Administrative Assistant, Elizabeth Jones, to the Academy to connect with our regional leaders and hopefully learn a thing or two. Today she is going to share some things she learned in the first class.

"I didn't have many expectations for the first day of my Academy class. I knew there would be some professional economic developers in attendance, but only one other person was going from Stephens County. To my surprise, there were people from many different professions; pastors, mayors, business people, librarians, and local leaders.

We started off the class like any other self-respecting class, by taking a personality test. This particular one was called "Mind Design" and was developed by Robert Black for this program. The 4 personality categories were "Meditative", "Intuitive", "Directive", and "Negotiative". "Meditatives" are the logical bunch who like facts and analysis. "Intuitives" are visual and creative, who like to see the bottom line and make decisions. "Directives" are the procedural and timely ones who like to follow the rules and complete every step. "Negotiatives" are the ones with all the feelings, they like to connect and work best in groups.

To no surprise, I was almost completely split between "Intuitive" and "Meditative". I am creative and like visuals but there is always logic behind every decision and a "right way to do things". Out of the class, it was evenly split between the other 3 groups, with the largest group being our "Intuitives". We had some great discussion and realizations on how ones personality affects others. Our strengths are others weaknesses and our weaknesses are their strengths. Something that satisfies our basic needs may be a potential obstacle to another. But together, we can compliment each other and understand how to work (or live) with someone of a different temperament. You can read more about the styles on Robert's website.

Our next (and most challenging) activity had no direction, we were just told to "WIN AS MUCH $ AS YOU CAN." We split into tables and were told to pick between two letters, and if everyone picks A, everyone wins $1. If B is picked by some, A's would loose $1 and B's would win $2.

Our brains told us "YOU" meant your table, so people would choose B in the hopes they would win the most amount of money for themselves. If we had interpreted "YOU" to mean the entire room - "win as much money as possible so that everyone wins", we all would have won $88. Instead, the highest scoring table only won $12 and the lowest scoring table was -$44.

The morale of the story was each table represented a community group. One of the tables was the development authority, one was the City, one was Public Works, one was ______ (insert whatever institution you want). When we only think of our own small section of the world, we miss out on the opportunities working together can bring.

But how much easier is that to say in class than to actually carry out? I think it is going to take intentional effort to start thinking beyond our own door frame.

We need to stop thinking it's us versus them. Whether "them" is a department, your city, your county, or the next county over. When one in our region succeeds, we ALL succeed - that's what I learned."

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