February 2014

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February 2014

News From Lea Asbell-Swanger, USITT President

Growth and the Immigrant Perspective

If you are not thinking, you’re not learning new things. If you’re not learning, you’re not growing and over time becoming irrelevant in your work.
- Glenn Llopis

I try to read a wide variety of articles and books and, in doing so, I’ve discovered some thought provoking – at least for me – ideas. I’ve also “met” some very interesting, intelligent people.

I found the quote above and its author, Mr. Llopis, in an on-line article in Forbes during the period when we were working intensely to transition the strategic plan into a business plan for USITT. What caught my attention at first was the relationship between learning, growing, and one’s work since that notion is a foundation of USITT’s purpose. That foundation is more than 50 years old now, so I started to think about how that idea could be approached in a new way. At that point my focus shifted to the first part of the quote: If you are not thinking, you’re not learning new things.

New things can be exciting and scary all at the same time, but if something is new without appropriate context, it can become a distraction. (Think Dug, the dog in the movie Up every time he sees a squirrel). New things developed through a thoughtful process, however, are the building blocks of innovation, and that, too, is a founding principle of USITT.

Back to Mr. Llopis. He is a Cuban-American entrepreneur, author, motivational speaker, and business consultant. His father, Frank Llopis, was a prominent Latin music pioneer who introduced rock ‘n’ roll rhythms to Salsa and Merengue music in Cuba, but was forced to immigrate to the United States because of Castro’s revolution. Glenn Llopis credits his father with much of his success. (I admire the fact that his business success is directly connected to the creativity of an artist.)

In fact, he built on the wisdom of his father’s immigrant perspective and, through significant business research, articulated the six natural characteristics of the immigrant mentality. He is quick to point out that you don’t have to be an actual immigrant to think like one in terms of your career and personal goals.

What does any of this have to do with USITT, you might ask? Well, if you consider the first characteristic of the six defined by Mr. Llopis--the ability to see opportunities everywhere and to be willing to act on them--USITT provides the perfect environment to foster this characteristic in the membership.

As an organization, USITT also has the responsibility to recognize opportunities on behalf of its members and, even more importantly, be willing to put forth the resources to turn those opportunities into reality. This is not an exact science. Some projects will fail along the initial trajectory, but thinking through the failure will provide new directions and even more opportunities, which must lead to more action. Trying something with no guarantee for success has to be part of the model.

Seeing opportunities everywhere suggests that we must broaden our search. The more diverse the thinking, the more variety in the opportunities, so nowhere and no one is off limits in terms of possibilities. This is part of the reason that international relationships and partnerships with other organizations are critical. It also must include the kind of diversity addressed by David Grindle in his article this month.

The collaborative nature of our work easily allows for an immigrant mentality, since a group of individuals comes together, often from different places and perspectives, to work toward a common goal. If we take that mentality and apply it to all aspects of our lives, the opportunities could be astounding. All I ask is that you think about it.

Lea Asbell-Swanger

We'd like to hear your comments on this story.
Please e-mail Lea at Lea.Asbell-Swanger@usitt.org.