These Aren't Your Mother's Girl Scouts

Last Updated Mar 7, 2008 2:20 PM EST

Early this decade the Girl Scouts of the USA was an organization adrift. Membership growth was slowing, the mission seemed dulled, the brand had lost its focus.

When Harvard Online blogger Bill Taylor looks at the Girl Scouts today and the steps it has taken under recent CEO Kathy Cloninger, he sees an organization that has accomplished remarkable change and strode strongly into the 21st century. "The brand matters again."

He notes, for example, that subjects the girls learn about today include technology, money management, and social activism. There all-Muslim troops, and troops for kids with mothers in prison. Times have changed, and the Girl Scouts are changing with the times.

He believes this dramatic change was based on three key understandings:

  • Real change emerges from the inside out.
  • Building the future means rediscovering your roots.
  • Strategic change comes from bottom-up communication and conversation, not top-down direction.
Taylor's short video blog on the Girl Scouts' transformation is entertaining and enlightening, and worth a view from anyone who is involved in changing an old-world culture into a modern organization.
  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.