by Brian Stephens, CEO + Co-Founder, CAISSA Public Strategy //
What inspires you?
I get passionate about my city and people getting excited about Memphis and fighting for it. From the business perspective, our company’s primary objective is to help move opinion. We work on visibility for clients and to improve reputation. We work to make things better and help people think differently and more positively. This is translated into the Memphis Cluster because in our city we have a deficit mindset. Leadership Memphis along with the Memphis Cluster are working to get people to have a positive opinion.
How do you use your background in business, industrial psychology, law and military science to help inform the work you are involved in and improve your city?
The movement of opinion is how we do things, get people to think differently, and get rid of biases, which is more psychology based. With a law and military background, strategy is vital. Also, what has helped teach me are my failures. I have had massive and epic failures and it was these failures that helped me learn! I am better able to break down the silos in the community and now am working to get the right people talking to each other.
In your opinion, what are the top 3 issues facing your city today?
I am going to change that – let’s talk about the top 3 opportunities… We all have the same problems in our cities, but here are opportunities Memphis has. First, we have a lower cost of living, which makes us attractive to businesses. Second, the people here are so real and polite in a way that is not fake. We are from the south, so of course we are polite, but we are down to earth. Third, we are one of the most generous and giving cities. When we look at what cities donate the most per capita, we are always in the Top 5. All of these opportunities can be leveraged.
What are one or two projects you are currently working that you are most excited about?
Leadership Memphis is a hub for our CEOs for Cities Cluster. They are taking on unbelievably difficult situations and helping to improve the city. Leadership Memphis is working on getting more volunteers in the city, helping more students get to college and helping others get back to college. Also, Leadership Memphis is currently working to train and teach people about what is going on in Memphis.
What’s your advice for the next generation of city change makers?
There are two parts to this…
First, care about something! You don’t have to care about everything, but whatever you feel passionate about, get to work on it and don’t quit. Even after you get movement and energy, don’t quit and then keep moving to work on something else. People check out and get frustrated, but you can make a difference and we need people who won’t give up.
Second, there are always going to be dragons and trolls. Dragons are the ones who fly and burn everything down and when you try to rebuild, they are not around. Trolls are the people who nitpick and complain about everything. They constantly tear apart good ideas and have a problem with everything but don’t help find solutions. You have to shut down the dragons and trolls in the world, or else they will take over. You can’t have people who just complain. People need to fight the dragons and trolls everyday and push back!
What should we know about your work that you haven’t yet mentioned because I didn’t ask the right question?
The Memphis Cluster is working diligently on making sure we pass along all the great info we learned to whoever needs it. We make a cognitive effort to inform others. For example, if we learned about planning, but not everyone could attend, we make sure to share the information so they can still learn about the topic and then, we start connecting additional people. This helps us create a “micro cluster” or a web of people in the community. We are hoping to push this effort more and use this web to navigate change.