Sunday, March 27, 2011

Let’s celebrate the Census results today for tomorrow we will need to get ready to receive the torch.

I have been following the news regarding the census numbers for a few months now and with each article I read I sensed an increasing level of excitement emanating from our Hispanic community. The last few weeks have been especially exciting as weekly communications from the US Census Bureau kept informing us that the total number of Hispanics residing in most of the states for which data was being released was higher than previously estimated. This led to the climax: the recent information shared by the US Census Bureau informing us all that the number of US Hispanics residing in this country surpassed the 50 million mark. I cannot think of a better way to describe what the process of receiving data from the US Census Bureau little by little felt like to me than to compare it to a lottery drawing. When people buy lottery tickets they do it with the hopes of winning even though they know that the probabilities of that happening are small. In essence, they don’t quit their jobs just because they bought a lottery ticket! As each of the individual numbers are drawn, you can see the faces of those who selected the right numbers gradually changing from a slight smile to a look of surprise, to a sense of expectation, and when the last number is drawn and the winners realize that all the numbers drawn match their selections…well I have never won the lottery but I can imagine the emotional explosion, the yelling, the jumping and the dancing that ensues.
I’ve read and heard several Hispanic and multicultural experts’ comments about the Census results and they all agree on at least one thing: the fact that we should celebrate. Why? I don’t know that there is a 100% rational reason to do so but one reason may be that 50 is a nice round number or because if it was to refer to someone’s age it would have been celebrated big time. But most likely because our numeral system is a positional base 10 system under which 5 marks the midpoint…or maybe there are other mathematical, sociological, psychological, philosophical or crazy reasons why we should.
I don’t mind the celebration; in fact I encourage it. It’s good to celebrate landmark events that take place during our lifetimes. However I would like to remind my fellow Hispanics that the results are not just a reason to celebrate. The census results should also be a wake-up call for us to get ready to receive the torch that is coming our way. In essence this situation is a little like the Brazilian Carnival. Brazilians celebrate Carnival for days knowing that come Ash Wednesday they will enter a season of stern religious discipline. Maybe the example is a little too dramatic but I think it makes the point. Celebrating the census results is a great thing to do as long as we stop celebrating at some point soon and begin preparing for the real work that lies ahead of us. I hope most Hispanics, if not all, are as excited as I am about witnessing the torch being turned over to the Hispanic community and the awesome opportunity and responsibility we are inheriting to help lead the US in its journey to the future. Max Benavidez, Managing Director, Public Communications Strategies, and news analyst, points out in an article he wrote for the Huffington Post on 3/4/11 called “The #Hashtag Generation: Young Latinos and America’s Future” that young Hispanics “…by demographic default, going to be the backbone of the U.S. workforce for the next thirty to fifty years.” And William H. Frey, a demographer at Brookings Institution who has analyzed most of the 2010 data, stated that Hispanics and other minorities “…will form the bulk of our labor-force growth in the next decade as they continue to disperse into larger parts of the country" as reported by MSNBC on 3/24/11. According to writer Damarys Ocana even the White House is linking the future of the US to that of our community. Ocana quoted Juan Sepulveda, director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans in who said “The future of this country is inextricably linked to the future of the Latino community. The census figures just cement what the President has been saying, that we can’t win the future without out-educating and out-innovating the rest of the world, and that we can’t do that without Latino kids taking part.” (See my blog dated Jan 27 called Hispanics as our nation’s builders)
These are very exciting times for us Hispanics in the US. But this is not just empty excitement. There are responsibilities attached to it. Responsibilities we shouldn’t and quite frankly can’t shy away from. We are creative problem solvers. It is in dealing with any issues, existing or new, arising from our increased responsibilities that we will make our mark in the US. We will show the world how creative we truly are as a community and as a nation. But this takes planning.
One of the most important contributing elements in any generation’s success has been the quality of its education. We are creative problem solvers but we need to know what to solve for. We need to acquire intellectual tools, tools that can become in the hands of creative problem solvers like us “tools of mass construction”. We need to peek into the future to ensure that we choose the right careers. Not just those that are right for us based on what we like doing but also careers that are going to be viable not just today but in another 30 to 50 years. It is not sufficient to ensure our community has jobs today but it is equally if not more critical that Hispanics have jobs in the future when they are in their 50’s and 60’s. I was reading "Physics of the Impossible", a book by Michio Kaku, a renowned physicist, writer and futurist and in it he stated that even when our society becomes highly dependent on robots and when they take over a sizeable number of tasks from humans there would still be certain things robots wouldn’t be able to do: they would not be able to perform jobs that required common sense, which is something that jobs that require creativity, originality, analysis, and leadership have in common. However college educated workers such as low level accountants, brokers, and tellers may lose their jobs in the future since their work is semi repetitive and involves keeping track of numbers which is something robots do well. Today a large number of Hispanics work in fields that are of the semi repetitive kind. We need to do much better in the future. We need to choose those fields where we, Hispanics, can make an important and positive contribution to society and that can be viable for decades into the future.
Things are changing fast in the US and will soon reach a critical point for Hispanics. But this is not all that is changing. The world at large is changing: the world order, global finances, sourcing of manufacturing and services, alliances, etc. But that’s alright! Rosanna Fiske (MediaShift) in her Op Ed dated 3/8/11 titled “Why Are Hispanics Missing in Leadership at Media Companies?” wrote “Hispanics aren't fond of sticking to the "way things have always been." We're living proof that change is the only constant.” Why would creative problem solvers want to stick to the way things have always been? Create problem solvers thrive working on solving issues that affects them and most likely others so a changing world is a perfect place for US Hispanics.
Max Benavidez and Fernando Torres-Gil have coined the term “Latino Imperative” to refer to the need we have not only as a community but more importantly as a country to educate our young Hispanics. In an article dated 10/07/09 for Latinos & Economic Security called “The Latino Imperative Is the Answer to Future U.S.” they wrote: “That’s why education is the key to ensuring the future economic prosperity of our nation. We call this the Latino Imperative because it’s essential to our continued status as a First World economy…Given America’s vast global responsibilities, the unrelenting requisites of national security, the strong presence of Latinos in our military and the proliferating growth of the new high tech economy, we have no choice but to ensure that Latinos are educated…If we commit to improving the education of young Latinos, we will, in fact, be making an enormous commitment to improving the future for all Americans. Simply put, Latino resiliency plus education equals U.S. prosperity for the 21st century.” To this I say “Amen!”

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hispanics, multiculturalism and creativity

If someone had asked me last week to share with my readers what proof did I have to support the statement that US Hispanics are creative problem solvers my answer might have been less than reassuring for many of you. Last week I would have said that the above statement was the product of 15 years of personal observation of US Hispanics’ behavior. That is the number of years I have worked in both the US Multicultural market and in Latin America and doesn’t include the over 30 years I have lived in several Hispanic communities in various cities around the country. In all those years I have seen Hispanics solving problems creatively over and over again. I must admit that a couple of people I knew used their creative problem solving abilities for less than legal activities…but they were very creative!
However, the fact that I have being observing Hispanic behavior for so many years does not mean that I was not researching this topic all along. Last week, in order to support or debunk the theory that Hispanics are creative problem solvers, I reached out to David Livermore, President of Cultural Intelligence Center. David is an expert on the topic of cultural intelligence and has written a couple of books on this subject (David has a book called “Leading with Cultural Intelligence” and is publishing another book on the same topic in May called “The Cultural Intelligence Difference”). In essence cultural intelligence, or CQ, is defined as the capability to function effectively across national, ethnic, and organizational cultures. Interestingly one of the traits of high CQ people is that they are better innovators.
From the moment Hispanics arrive in this country we, first generation and Bilingual / Bicultural Hispanics alike, are constantly negotiating between at least two cultures. I would add to the mix the fact that most Hispanics live and engage with Hispanics of other nationalities other than theirs on a regular basis due to linguistic and certain cultural similarities. This leads me to state that Hispanics in the US function effectively across national and ethnic cultures which to me is an indication that US Hispanics have a pretty high CQ. If this is true then it would also be true that US Hispanics are better innovators which would support my comments about Hispanics being creative problem solvers.
This was a great starting point but I felt I needed stronger scientific evidence in order to defend my comments about Hispanics and so I asked David Livermore if he would be able to help. David read my blog and commented that my theory resonated with him based on his personal experience but that he had not seen any study that looked at specific ethnic groups and their connection with creativity. He went on to tell me that what he had seen was a study that dealt with creativity and intercultural effectiveness which he was kind enough to forward on to me. I read the study and I found in essence what I was looking for, sort of.
The study is not ethnic group specific but the results of the study do support the fact that Hispanics in the US are creative problem solvers. The study states that “The evidence reviewed in the present article should reassure …that multicultural experience does indeed confer distinct beneficial effects on creative performance.” It also states that “…our research is the first to empirically demonstrate exposure to multiple cultures in and of itself can enhance creativity. Overall, we have found that extensiveness of multicultural experiences is positively related to both creative performance (insight learning, remote association, and idea generation) and creativity –supporting cognitive processes (retrieval of unconventional knowledge, recruitment of ideas from unfamiliar cultures for creative idea expansion).” In the absence of a study done specifically for US Hispanics I feel this study does include US Hispanics and to me its results are enough supporting evidence that Hispanics are creative problem solvers. Does it say that other immigrants are less so? Not really but I have never said that creative problem solving was a trait that could only be found in the Hispanic community. What I have said is that Hispanics are creative problem solvers and that we as a community have to leverage that trait in order to succeed and to help the US succeed in this new highly competitive world we live in. Does anyone disagree?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hispanics as our nation’s builders

I found it interesting that as we are discussing Hispanic Creativity, President Obama would choose to talk about “…out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world”. Not surprising, but certainly interesting. I also thought it was interesting that he would talk about innovation in education. He shared the fact that about ¼ of today students do not even finish high school yet in the next 10 years ½ of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school degree.
The reason I find this so interesting is that at the heart of it Obama’s comments address the future of Hispanics in this country. Today about 22% of kids under the age of 18 are Hispanics. This percentage is expected to continue to grow for the foreseeable future due to the higher percentage of Hispanics in the 5 - 12 Cohort. So roughly ¼ of all the kids that will be impacted by any changes to the current system of education are Hispanics. Also, when President Obama speaks about the failure of the current system i.e. kids not finishing high school, math and science scores below those of many other countries, etc., he is basically talking about how the system is failing our children and the future of the Hispanic community. And by failing the Hispanic community, it is failing the US.
Innovation requires creative minds. It requires that people find creative solutions not just to today’s problems but to tomorrow’s reality. And yes, I will say it once more, we Hispanics are creative problem solvers. So if we are already creative problem solvers, a new system of education that concentrates on improving our kids’ chances of becoming innovators feels to me as a system where our kids can excel. This is especially important since, as I stated on an earlier post, we Hispanics are inheriting a huge responsibility as we become a very large percentage of the labor force in this country.
When the President said “In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lifes. It’s how me make our living” and “That’s what Americans have done for over 200 years. Reinvented ourselves.” I thought “Those statements certainly describe the Hispanic community.” I discussed in my first posting how when our forefathers and even some of us arrived in the US had to work doing things we never did before and we became “experts” due to what could be categorized as on the job training. Engineers became house painters, farmers became plumbers, etc. We reinvented ourselves to meet an immediate challenge and to ensure that our children had a better life. And our children are living a better life. All indicators point to a higher average income for Hispanic families than what we had in the past (those indicators have suffered due to the recession but apples to apples they are still better than before.)
So, why am I writing about this? Because I think we have a great opportunity as creative thinkers to influence what the new system of education can look like and how it can help our children excel in the world of the future; a future that starts right now. Our children cannot wait for the next generation to figure this out. We need to improve today their chances of success in a new world. A world where time frames are a lot more compressed than ever before and where waiting for tomorrow to improve something critical to our competitiveness could put our children and consequently our country behind many other countries perhaps forever.
In South Korea teachers are call “nation builders”. Only Asian wisdom could articulate such a brilliant insight! In the next 5 to 10 years US teachers will be building our nation through our Hispanic kids.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hispanic Creativity - How to get additional space for a soccer complex

Last week I was thinking about Hispanic’s creativity and on how to make the point about Hispanics being creative problem solvers in a more tangible manner. I decided that I would look around and showcase some Hispanics who are doing just that. While trying to figure out who to reach out to in order to tell his or her story I remembered a conversation I had with Tab Ramos a few months ago at an MTV3’s event in Los Angeles.
Tab Ramos is best known for his role as a former US National Soccer team player and for being the first player signed with MLS. Tab also participated in the US Olympic team and played in Spain for Real Betis and for UANL Tigres in Mexico. He retired in 2002 and was inducted to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2005. But Tab is not just an accomplished athlete; he is also an entrepreneur and a caring individual interested in helping children grow as individuals and reach their maximum potential.
I reached out to Tab to pick up where we left off in LA regarding a project he was working on and got a hold of him as he was coming back from a National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) convention in Baltimore.
EL – Hi Tab, Happy New Year! I hope things are well with you. I’m writing a blog about Hispanic’s and the way they go about solving problems creatively and I remembered a conversation you and I had last year about the indoor / outdoor soccer complex you were trying to build.
TR – Happy New Year to you! That’s right. That is a project I have been working on for the past 3 years.
EL – How is that coming along?
TR – It continues to move forward slowly and to some degree it has morphed a little bit from the original project due to the challenges I faced while trying to make it happen.
EL – Challenges! Great segue way. You are an entrepreneur and as such I imagine you deal with challenges every day. What kind of challenges you face on an average day?
TR – There are all kinds of challenges in running a 50,000sf multisport facility, a 22 team national development soccer academy, personally coaching one of the 22 teams, serve as assistant coach and main scout for the USA under 20 National Team and manage multiple appearances for some major companies such as Pepsi Cola and, as you know, Subway Restaurants. I also run practices for a couple of the academy teams on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 7pm to 9pm.
EL – Wow! I knew you did lots of things but never imagined you did that many. So which challenges you deem the most critical to address in your business.
TR – It runs the gamut from parental concerns for individual players in a variety of recreational sports, to facilities issues, to personnel management issues, to legal issues, and so on. The parental concern issues can be the most time consuming because they require personal interaction with each particular individual and although they are handled by each individual sport’s manager they are all reviewed by me. The facilities issues are amongst the most important. They could range from maintenance of the bar, the hockey rink, the soccer and football turf, the concession stand, the party room, meeting rooms, offices, parking, etc. On the subject of personnel management, it is very important that I have meetings with my managers to evaluate their work and their production, review the programs they have in place and introduce new ones that can produce higher revenue and higher profits. I also discuss with my management team our advertising budget and see where it has been effective and where it has not. And lastly, my other daily challenge related to personnel comes from our National Development Academy Club (NJSA 04). It has over 20 teams who travel nationally so the schedule for each team is a challenge in itself. We also card players, keep track of their progress and ensure their parents are pleased with their children’s development. I have to hire and keep track of all the coaches and program directors as well as clinic directors and keep in touch with all the major Division 1 College Programs to be able to place our players into the Universities that best fit their skills on the soccer field and in the classroom.
EL – All of that on an average day.
TR – Yes.
EL – And then you have to add your project to that list!
TR – That’s right.
EL – Can you tell us what this project is all about?
TR – Sure. For the last 3 years I have been trying to build an indoor / outdoor soccer complex. Our soccer academy (NJSA 04) has grown so much that we have completely outgrown facilities available to us.
EL – What was the challenge you had to deal with?
TR – The recession. Initially the most difficult part of the project was finding a major sponsor to help us. After speaking with many major corporations we realized that in these economic times it would be difficult to be able to find the 5 Million plus required to build what we needed.
EL – How did you go about addressing the challenge?
TR – We first approached corporations and asked them to invest $2.5M for a 50% ownership of the facility plus naming rights and sponsorship mentions in all promotional materials for 15 years. At the end of the 15 years the corporation would still own 50% of the facility and would have right of first refusal to continue owning the naming rights to the facility plus could choose to continue being a sponsor. Unfortunately due to the country’s financial situation we were not successful in finding the right investor to partner with. This forced us to look for alternative solutions to our need for additional space which lead us to modify the original concept and decided to build an outdoors facility that could be used during the winter months by covering one of the soccer fields with a bubble.
EL - Were you able to execute the concept?
TR – Not yet. We have found a 20 acre parcel of flat tree-free land that is perfect but we have spent the last year and a half negotiating with the owner and with the township as we would only buy the land contingent on getting all permits and approvals for the turf soccer fields and lights.
EL – So what is the outcome going to be? Do you think you will be able to resolve this situation any time soon?
TR – As I said we are still negotiating but in the meantime we have found another solution to the problem. One that is a medium term solution while we work on the more permanent one.
EL - So first the indoor / outdoor complex was too expensive and you were not able to find investors. This prompted you to change the original concept and it morphed into an outdoor complex that could be winterized by implementing a bubble during the cold, snowy months. Now, since the outdoor complex concept is taking some time to execute you have found a third albeit temporary solution. Is the new solution you mentioned a third concept?
TR – I think is similar to the second concept except we don’t have to build anything and is only temporary. During our meetings with the township’s Mayor, Clerk, Attorney, Director of Recreation Department, etc. we were able to negotiate taking over a 5 year lease of a 5 field complex with 3 lit fields that the township is currently struggling to support due to budget cuts. It comes with several restrictions but we believe that this lease will hold us over until we are able to get all the approvals and move forward on our 20 acre parcel of land. It also buys us more time to find the right sponsor and build the type of facility we need to host the huge number of teams we will have as well as run all the additional programs we are hoping to add.
EL – That’s awesome. Can you share what those additional programs are?
TR – Yes! We are looking at inner city programs, Special Olympics, international exchange, etc.
EL – What would you say is critical for people to do in order to address and solve problems like the ones you encountered in this project?
TR – I would say that it is very important to be extremely patient, persistent and prompt. I can’t think of anything but the “Rome was not built in a day” saying. All phases of a project can be on completely different time frames. Also people need to build good relationships with other people. The person you met briefly at the beginning of a process may be the one that eventually helps you find the solution to your problem. The 5 year lease we signed with the township originated with an idea the Mayor pitch to us. He knew how hard we had worked for the last 3 years to build something. We have been good to the township and its kids and we stand for the right things. I believe the township will be fully behind us when all the pieces are in place to take the next step.
EL – Hispanics are very much relationship driven individuals and I know firsthand that you are very much a person who likes building relationships. Would you say your upbringing has played a role in the way you approach your everyday challenges?
TR – Definitely! My upbringing plays a major role in my everyday life. For instance I always remember what my dad used to say: “Al que madruga Dios lo ayuda”. I am always very early at work! Also as you mentioned above I am very much a person who likes building relationships. I believe in people more that I believe in the power they may have. I believe that people who are smart and who care will always be successful. I always want them on my team. My parents believed that education was very important and that stayed with me. Education is always the single most important investment anyone can make and it’s with you forever. I never took my athletic ability for granted and realized that at some point it would end. My education will still be with me long after my athletic ability is gone.
When I left Tab he was planning a business trip to Nebraska. I have known him for a few of years and I can vouch for his work ethic. I’m sure he makes his dad proud! I can also say that he is not just an athlete but also a great human being who is truly interested in making a difference in the lives of the kids he trains in his multisport facility. Lastly he is a Hispanic entrepreneur who has and continues to solve problems creatively.
If anyone has any question for Tab, just post them and I will forward them to him.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hispanic's creativity will help the US succeed in the 21 Century

Hispanics are creative almost at the DNA level. Just think about what our parents and grandparents or perhaps even ourselves had to do in order to survive when first arrived in this land of opportunity. I've known Hispanics who held two and three jobs and somehow managed to keep some sort of family life. Now that requires creativity! New arrivals are mostly nimble. They are here to work and to succeed for their families. They follow work where ever it can be found. Move from city to city, from state to state. They have side businesses or perform small jobs whenever asked if they can do this or that. They may have never done that type of work before but end up "learning on the job" and do plumbing, electricity, carpentry and all sorts of things. If that is not a creative way of making a living I'm not sure what is.
But that is not the extent of how creative we are. We are not only blue collar and agricultural workers. We are also a tremendous force in just about every profession there is in this great country of ours. And as the baby boomers retire in droves, Hispanics are entering the work force in a similar fashion. Let's face it: Hispanics are going to shoulder the future growth of our country in just a few years. And as prior immigrants have done before, we are about to impress in the US our fingerprints and in the process we are going to show the world that we still are and will continue to be for the foreseeable future a creative nation. And Hispanics are going to be in the driver’s seat. Mind you, not alone, but definitely in the driver's seat.
As I mentioned above, Hispanics are going to impress in the US our fingerprints. We are going to "touch" all aspects of life and infuse them with our creative essence. In fact today Hispanics are performing incredibly well by finding solutions to problems creatively. There are Hispanics working in government trying to solve issues that will affect America for the next few decades, Hispanics are working on creating the next "big thing" in the areas of new materials, digital media, ways of learning, green living, etc. Hispanics are also creating fresh new art, solving business problems and finding new medicines and new ways to fight and win the war on Cancer, HIV, Diabetes, Heart disease, etc.
To me and many others the 21st Century is the "Hispanic Century" and I in particular don't call it so to make us feel superior to others but more as a wakeup call to all of us to realize the tremendous responsibility that lays square on our shoulders and the great expectations that all of us have as a nation, irrespective of ethnicity and race, from all of those, yes, you included, who are working to ensure that this country remains the great, creative, entrepreneurial, empowering country our fathers and grandfathers strove so hard to get to.
So let’s show the world how creative Hispanics are. Let’s create new businesses, help create new jobs, new careers, new opportunities for all.
I would love to hear from the readers what are each of you doing in the area of creativity: whether solving a great engineering issue or creating a new painting, searching for the cure of a major illness or writing the next blockbuster movie. I realize there are lots of confidentiality issues to be concerned with but you don’t have to let us know the specifics. I just want to know how are Hispanics using our “DNA level” creativity to improve the companies we work on, the US and hopefully the world at large.