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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Growth and Innovation

FEE recently brought Wayne Olson on board as its executive director, joining the management team of Larry Reed, president, and Carl Oberg, chief operating officer. Wayne joins FEE after a 26-year career as a financial-services executive, where he specialized in new product development and marketing. Here Wayne discusses the reasons for this management addition and his vision for FEE’s future.

This move is about growth and innovation, which were areas of particular focus for me during my business career.

About two years ago, FEE completed a strategic re-alignment process. We identified a critical role for ourselves in the movement for liberty that would leverage our historic values and capabilities–the role of introducing future leaders to the freedom philosophy and helping them get involved with others who share that philosophy.

Putting that simple idea into action has created a period of dynamic product development at FEE. We have attracted a talented team of energetic young managers who have redesigned each of our traditional programs to serve this newly-identified purpose.  The popularity of these transformed programs with young people is off the charts—for example, on-line readership has doubled and seminar attendance is up 65%. The response from our supporters has been very gratifying, as FEE’s contribution revenues have been growing at over 20% a year.

Our ambition is to maintain that growth rate for the foreseeable future and even to accelerate it where we can.  FEE has asked me to join the management team to move this process forward.  As Larry, Carl and I see it, we have the ideal combination of complementary skill sets to make this happen—my own experience as a business executive, focusing on product innovation, combined with Larry’s thought leadership and Carl’s organizational skills.

Innovation has become an integral part of FEE’s culture. Beyond redesigning the traditional programs, FEE has introduced a series of new programs on an experimental basis, seeking to expand our effectiveness, including our webinar series, our on-line educational modules, our alumni-organized gatherings and our co-branded seminars with program partners.

We believe that “making it personal” is a key ingredient to our most effective programs, given that we are aiming to change young people’s lives in a significant way.  At the same time, we are convinced that there are more ways that we can dramatically enhance the scale of our operations without sacrificing the personal element, through building the right kinds of networks of allied organizations and individuals, and through the imaginative use of interactive technology.

So, expect no change from FEE in our principles, but dramatic change in how we interact with our audience of future leaders, get them excited about liberty, help them to engage with its philosophical foundations and connect with others who share a desire to make these enduring precepts more influential in our politics and our culture.        

  • Wayne Olson is the Chairman of FEE's Board of Trustees and a former executive director of the Foundation for Economic Education.