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Shaping Our Board’s Engagement & Strategic Direction

We are the Greater Spokane region’s business development organization focused on leading transformative business and community initiatives to build a robust regional economy.  
Who are we,
and what do we do?
We create the place where organizations come together to advocate for the region, drive strategic economic growth, and champion
a talented workforce.  
It is about
Greater Growth
Greater Voice
Greater Talent

which leads to a thriving economy.
It is about how GSI drives, connects, partners, and supports the Spokane region through
the work we do.

GSI's Mission

We lead transformative business and community initiatives to build a robust

regional economy

GSI's Vision

A vibrant Spokane region where businesses

and communities thrive. 

"Our collective work over the past few months

has been critical for building a shared framework

for engagement that values and prioritizes

the board's thought leadership.


This collective framework is essential as we work forward together to tackle the numerous adaptive challenges

facing our community on our path to economic recovery and growth.

- Alisha Benson, CEO of GSI

What kind of leadership does our community need from us?  

As we position for long-term success, our community's challenges are not technical problems with engineered fixes. They are adaptive challenges stemming from interrelated trends—demographic, economic, social, political, and technological—playing out on the local, national, and global stages.  

As GSI board members and community leaders, if we want to help build a vital and vibrant community, we must work together and lead by mobilizing people to make progress on our most important complex, adaptive challenges.  

Come ready for Monday's Board meeting.

During our breakout session at our upcoming board meeting (July 26), we will jump right in to frame an adaptive challenge that GSI faces (see below) and tease out the technical and adaptive components.  To maximize our time together, it is important that you come with a deep enough understanding of the problem-solving framework of adaptive challenges and technical problems so that you can 1) differentiate between the nuances of the two and provide relevant examples, and 2) apply your understanding to the types of adaptive challenges that GSI faces. 

The micro-lesson below includes a 3-minute video on adaptive leadership, information about adaptive challenges and technical problems, and specific examples related to GSI. After reviewing the materials, please complete the two (brief) Action Items below. The more responses we receive, the better we can leverage the ROI of this work, so thank you for continuing to invest in this important process!


“Leadership would be a safe undertaking if your organizations and communities only faced problems for which they already knew the solutions.  Every day, people have problems for which they do, in fact, have the necessary know-how and procedures.  We call these technical problems. 

But there is a whole host of problems that are not amenable to authoritative expertise or standard operating procedures.  They cannot be solved by someone who provides answers from on high.  We call these adaptive challenges because they require experiments,
new discoveries, and adjustments from numerous places in the organization or community. 

Without learning new ways – changing attitudes, values, and behaviors – people cannot make the adaptive leap necessary to thrive in the new environment. 
The sustainability of change depends on having the people with the problem internalize the change itself.” 

- Ron Heifetz & Marty Linsky 

Action Item #1

Understanding Adaptive Challenges & Technical Problems 

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Complex social and community problems, like improving the public schools or ending homelessness, are fundamentally different from technical problems,

and the effective exercise of leadership depends on understanding this distinction. 


Technical problems are well defined.  Their solutions are known and those with adequate expertise and organizational capacity can solve them. When an organization tackles a technical problem, it knows exactly who to fund, how much it will cost, and what the outcome will be. Examples of such problems are increasing access to higher education (by funding scholarships), increasing capacity for treating patients (by building a new hospital), increasing the efficiency of a food bank (by installing better inventory controls), or eradicating malaria (by underwriting vaccines). In each case, the problem is clear, the solution depends on well-established practices, and given enough money, a single organization can implement the solution. 


Adaptive problems are entirely different. They are not so well defined, the answers are not known in advance, and many different stakeholders are involved, each with their own perspectives. Adaptive problems require innovation and learning among the interested parties and, even when a solution is discovered, no single entity has the authority to impose it on the others. 


The stakeholders themselves must create and put the solution into effect since the problem is rooted in their attitudes, priorities, or behavior. And until the stakeholders change their outlook, a solution cannot emerge. Many fundamental social problems that community organizations seek to address – from reforming education to ending hunger and homelessness – are adaptive.  



Problems that can be diagnosed and solved, generally within a short time frame, by applying established know-how and procedures. Technical problems are amenable to authoritative expertise and management of routine processes. 

Some problems are so complex

that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed

just to be undecided about them.

- Laurence J. Peter


Adaptive challenges refer to situations where there are no known solutions to the problem or cases where there are too many solutions but no clear choices.

Adaptive challenges are, by nature, adaptive, which also means they are fluid and change with circumstances.

GSI's (Potential) Adaptive Challenges

Understanding what you are getting into is critical if you are trying to make progress on a tricky issue. The most significant single mistake people make is misdiagnosing the situation. For starters, you've got to identify the problem correctly – technical, adaptive, or both?   


*Each of the examples below may include both technical and adaptive components.


Click or hover over the images to view GSI (Potential) Adaptive challenges.

Action Item #2

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