Whatever Happened to 20% Time?

It’s common knowledge that innovation is tied directly to creativity. Companies and organizations that foster creativity create a well of new ideas that can spur growth. Creative environments strengthen morale, engagement and productivity among employees. Or so we’re told.

One of the more famous programs aimed at promoting creativity was adopted by Google. Known as “20% Time,” it invites employees to allot 20 percent of their time to work on individual or group projects that they think would most benefit the company. Some accounts suggest the program resulted in products like Gmail and AdSense, which are now widely used products. I thought this was an interesting idea. Employees, to some degree, have the most knowledge of a company’s operations as they are the one’s working the frontlines. By allowing them more time to work on what they consider most important, they will be able to come up with innovative ways to improve the company’s performance. Surely such a simple and effective idea would spread to other industries- or so I thought.

I read some personal accounts of Google’s 20 percent time and learned that the many people are not as enthusiastic about the program as early media coverage suggested, and it hasn’t seemed to spread much beyond tech. Even at Google, less than ten percent of its employees were using it and those that did sometimes referred to it as “120 percent time.” 20 percent time ultimately requires employees to take time off from primary projects to work on individual ventures, a sacrifice many people are unwilling to make voluntarily, and those that do, just end up working longer. It seems that creativity requires context, and the 20% time program didn’t offer the right one for everyone. A few years back there was some media attention to the program’s discontinuation, although there was disagreement over whether it was extinguished entirely

Silicon Valley tech companies like to give off the impression that their management techniques are a form of enlightened thinking, especially when compared to other industries. They pride themselves for their innovativeness and attract many great talent as a result. However, I wonder if these “special” methods act more as decorations to disguise these companies from the fact that they operate and manage like any other profit driven business. Google HR boss said it himself, “In some ways, the idea of 20 percent time is more important than the reality of it.”

Despite the program’s discontinuation, it still serves a vital purpose as a part of Google’s story that potential employees can relate to. People want to work at a place that appears to have a laidback, creative culture, regardless of whether or not that’s how it actually is. 20 percent time still serves that purpose.

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Leadership Pioneer Valley Class of 2016 makes it into El Sol Latino’s July edition!


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Leadership Pioneer Valley Welcomes New Board Members




Community Leaders elected for two year term


July 19, 2016 – Springfield, MA Leadership Pioneer Valley is pleased to welcome, Raymond Berry Jr., Ed Kubosiak Jr., Russell Peotter, and Francia Wisnewski to its Board of Directors. Each brings a passion for both the work of the organization and the continued success of the Pioneer Valley.


“We are delighted to have these dynamic and community leaders join us,” said Lora Wondolowski, Leadership Pioneer Valley Executive Director. “Ed, Ray, Francia, and Rus bring important skills and experience to the board and will help to fulfill our mission of building and connecting more diverse, committed and effective leadership for the Pioneer Valley.”


Raymond Berry is the Senior Vice President & CFO at the United Way of Pioneer Valley a regional non-profit organization and founder of White Lion Brewing Company, the first craft brewing company in the city of Springfield’s history. Berry is currently an appointed member of the United Way Worldwide’s Financial Issues Committee, is a board member for Partners for Healthier Communities, Black Leadership Alliance, STCC Foundation and the local YMCA.  Recently he served as a mayoral appointed and city council approved Commissioner for the city of Springfield’s License Board.  Ray is also an inaugural class alumnus of LPV.

Ed Kubosiak Jr. is the Editor-in-Chief of MassLive.com, a position he has held since 2005, and has spent the past 23 years as a journalist. Kubosiak has helped MassLive grow into the second-largest digital media organization in the state, trailing only the Boston Globe properties (BostonGlobe.com/Boston.com), with more than 3.5 million monthly unique visitors. Previous to joining MassLive in 1998 Kubosiak spent five years as a sports reporter at the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton.

Russell Peotter is responsible for the management of WGBY Springfield, the WGBH-affiliated public television station serving western Massachusetts, northern Connecticut and southern Vermont. He oversees programming, production, development, engineering, and administration. Rus came to WGBY in 2001 from Maine Public Broadcasting. He has served on numerous PBS national committees, helping senior PBS management develop policies and services in support of stations across the country. Outside of work, he is currently Chair of MassCreative, the Commomwealth’s Arts advocacy organization, Chair of the Hampshire Regional Chamber of Commerce, and on the boards of CISA and the Hilltown Land Trust among others.

 Francia Wisnewski grew up in Colombia and worked as a biology teacher before moving to this country to pursue a master’s degree in education at UMass Amherst. After settling in Greenfield, she immersed herself in volunteer work and selflessly continues to give time and effort to causes she believes in.  She just stepped down as an elected school committee member and is Regional Program Manager for Raising a Reader MA.

About Leadership Pioneer Valley:
The mission of Leadership Pioneer Valley is to identify, develop and connect diverse leaders to strengthen the region. Formed in 2010 to fill a critical need for a leadership program that builds a network of emerging leaders to address the challenges and opportunities of the region, Leadership Pioneer Valley combines both classroom and hands-on, experiential learning at different locations throughout the Valley. The curriculum is designed to foster the skills, collaboration, and commitment needed to further a vibrant and culturally competent Pioneer Valley. The inaugural class launched in the fall of 2011.


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How ‘Leadership Pioneer Valley’ can help grow leaders – and our community

Published on MassLive OPED June, 17, 2016

By Paul Stelzer and Tim Brennan

As a local business and regional planning organization, we see the critical need for investment in leadership development in our region. Future leaders are key to our economic growth and the health of our communities and community organizations. We at the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission are proud to have helped found and incubate Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV). Over the last five years, we have also had our staff participate in their 10-month leadership development program. Each time, they learned not just how to work effectively with others but also made contacts that are invaluable to the work of both of our organizations. We believe that this kind of development and relationship building is vital given the aging population of the Pioneer Valley and the need to increase the leadership skills of existing and emerging leaders.

According to the Census, by 2020, 35 percent of the U.S. population will be 50 years or older. This age group primarily holds the leadership and managerial positions in our workforce, which creates a need for leadership skills in our region among those coming up the ranks. Currently, 23 percent of the population in the Pioneer Valley is 55 or older.

Our team at Appleton Corporation also believes in the importance of Leadership Pioneer Valley, and we have invested in leadership by promoting LPV’s Leadership 2.0 seminars. We think the value of a program like Leadership Pioneer Valley cannot be underestimated. Nearly everything in business begins and ends with great leadership, and because it’s a complex topic, no one has a complete formula for what makes a better leader. Overall, we are seeing the development of small and large companies as fluid and decentralized, and one that continually reinvents itself and operates locally, regionally, and now more than ever, globally. This puts an added burden on leadership competence.

Leadership Pioneer Valley tackles regional issues of importance and connects leaders through its program of teaching leadership values, using case studies, and peer management of a joint project. Trust, goal setting, and team building skills are developed through this intense program. Building leadership competence is critical to our workforce needs, as noted by the census data. If you want to know why so many organizations sink into trouble, look at that company’s leadership. That’s the value of a program like Leadership Pioneer Valley. It examines, quite holistically, the leadership paradigm and their graduates are more competent and ready to assume leadership roles in any sector they choose to work in. This is not text book learning but real practical, hands on personal development.

We think if you study leadership and watch closely, the real job of leaders is to inspire the organization to take responsibility for creating a better future, and a responsibility to communicate effectively. Leadership Pioneer Valley not only develops those skills, it also creates a regional network of leaders who can work together for the betterment of all in the Valley.

By working with other leaders from both the private and public sector, Leadership Pioneer Valley graduates return to the workplace with a stronger understanding of how to be inclusive. In fact, by the end of the program, 76 percent of participants showed increased cultural competency. Our region is increasingly diverse and our companies and organizations need inclusive leadership to thrive.

Our staff who have participated report that LPV has helped to deepen their understanding of our community’s biggest challenges and opportunities, built important relationships, and further developed their skills as leaders.

As Leadership Pioneer Valley prepares to graduate its 5th class and accepts applications for their 5th Anniversary Class, we agree that Leadership Pioneer Valley is an invaluable resource that local employers can use to help cultivate and retain top talent, much like each of our organizations have done. We urge employers to join the more than 80 other employers who have taken advantage of this critical resource.

Paul Stelzer is president, Appleton Corporation, Tim Brennan is executive director, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.

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Leadership Pioneer Valley 2016 Graduation

Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV) held its fifth graduation ceremony last week on June 15, 2016. As the organization’s summer intern, I had the pleasure of attending this event and was able to learn more about the work we do.

I started my stint at LPV in early May, not knowing too much about the program, but it didn’t take long for me to catch on. By the end of the first week, the executive director Lora Wondolowski had me working on multiple projects and even invited me to attend the Class of 2016’s final Challenge Day in late May. It was a great experience, and I was finally able to see our work in action. Our trainer that day discussed the art of negotiation. Lora and Greg Richane, program coordinator, also planned team building activities so the participants could apply these new skills. It was an intensive session, but the participants were determined to challenge both themselves and each other to work through the problems. But what I found more impressive was their motivation. They weren’t completing these tasks simply because they had too. There was a deeper drive behind it. They wanted to learn, grow, and develop. They showed a genuine passion, which is what LPV works to spark in all of its participants.

About a month later I had the opportunity to watch those same people graduate. However, to my surprise, the ceremony was not all fun and games. After working tirelessly for ten months, the graduates were required to present the results of a community development project that they had been working on throughout the program. Some projects proved more successful than others, but I did notice one commonality among each group– everyone put their individual motives to the side and functioned as a single unit with one common goal. They worked as a team and exhibited the leadership traits that they had been working on all year. It’s always a refreshing experience to see what individual people can do when they come together and work collaboratively. The learning, passion and connections were evident last week, and I’m sure it will carry on from here on out.


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Leadership Pioneer Valley and Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts offer discount to graduates to strengthen collaboration

SPRINGFIELD, MA— Effective immediately Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV) and the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (Women’s Fund) will begin offering alumni of their programs a mutual 20 percent discount. The discount is just one part of a new effort between these organizations to strengthen and coordinate learning opportunities for emerging leaders in the region.

Both LPV and the Women’s Fund Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact (LIPPI) program seek to empower up-and-coming leaders and, ultimately, strengthen the region as a whole. However, each program has unique content and perspectives that, if taken subsequently, will provide a comprehensive leadership experience. Graduates of the LPV program can apply for LIPPI at womensfund.net; graduates of LIPPI can apply for LPV at leadershippv.org.

“The Women’s Fund is thrilled to participate in this collaborative effort with Leadership Pioneer Valley,” said Elizabeth Barajas-Román, CEO, Women’s Fund. “We think this is a natural partnership for our organizations, as we both invest in creating strong communities through leadership development. Together, our participants will become the civic and business leaders of tomorrow who will help the region thrive.”

“This partnership makes so much sense as we feel our curriculums are complementary. Together, we are building a cadre of leaders who are making a difference in their careers and communities,” said Lora Wondolowski, Executive Director of Leadership Pioneer Valley.

LPV is a nonprofit that works to identify, develop, and connect diverse leaders to strengthen the region. LPV’s core program challenges and engages emerging leaders from all sectors of the community from throughout the region. The curriculum consists of both classroom and hands-on, experiential learning that builds leadership skills, enhances regional understanding, and creates broader networks.

The Women’s Fund is a public foundation that connects donors with the lives of local women and girls through strategic grant making and leadership development. Their signature, non-partisan program, LIPPI, is designed to address the need to provide women with the tools, mentors, and confidence they need to become powerful and effective civic leaders and elected officials.

Further information on each program can be found at leadershippv.org and womensfund.net.


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Bridging Divides

By: Lora Wondolowski

(This piece was featured in the African American American Point of View May 2016 Issue)

Like many of you and Americans around the country, I’ve been thinking a lot about the national elections.  As someone who worked for political organizations, it is disheartening to watch the kind of rhetoric, violence, and tone of this year’s elections.  I know that I am not alone in that feeling and observation.  As the director of an organization that teaches leadership, it has been hard to watch folks exhibit what we would call negative leadership.  I haven’t known how to wade into this conversation or do more than wring my hands until last night.

I was fortunate to be invited to meet Mark Gerzon the author of the book The Reunited States of America and also listen to him address an overflowing crowd in Hartford about his ideas on bridging the partisan divide.  Gerzon believes that civic leadership organizations like ours are already doing the work to bridge divides and can be the key to rebuilding our communities.  I couldn’t agree with him more.

This election cycle has surfaced some of the worst traits in Americans and perpetuated the idea that the world is divided into two camps that are diametrically opposed.   At the same time, we have become more and more segregated in this country—only listening to certain radio stations or TV that agrees with us, living in towns that are liberal or conservative based on our beliefs, and using social media as an echo-chamber with like-minded folks.  There is absolutely polarization going on, but at the same time there are many that fall into neither “camp.”  Hence, the fact that Gallup recently found that 42% of voters are independent, which is an historic high.

How do we engage the growing middle and create a third way?  Gerzon believes that only through dialogue and not debate can we build bridges of trust and collaboration that will knit our communities back together.  I whole heartedly agree with him and see it happening every month in our core leadership program.  We bring together 30-40 individuals from different employment sectors, geographies, ages, cultural backgrounds to learn, collaborate, and problem-solve.  I know that our participants don’t all belong to the same party or agree on issues but they are still able to come together without partisan politics ever entering the conversation.  We explore together some of the challenges faced by our communities and region.  We don’t purport to have the solutions but instead, ask them to be part of the conversation and problem-solving.  This is the best way to create a new way that is actually an old way.

It is easy to feel like things are broken beyond repair in America, but I am feeling hopeful again.  Leadership Pioneer Valley and the hundreds of other community leadership programs around the country are already doing the work that connects people in meaningful ways across divides to tackle community challenges.  We have the opportunity this year and after Election Day to get to work in a more deliberate way that engages more people in the dialogues that we are already engaged in.

Join the conversation: we are now accepting applications on our website until July 1 for the 5th Anniversary Class of Leadership Pioneer Valley.

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