CBA white paper on innovation culture

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    23-Mar-2016

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Draft of the white paper on realizing a culture of innovation in the Cedar Rapids / Iowa City Region

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  • TakingtheFirstStepsontheQuesttoCreateaRegionalCultureofInnovation

    Abstract:Ourregioncanberecognizedinternationallyasavibranthubforcommerceandlifestyleifwetakeactiontocultivateatruecultureofinnovationwherethepredominantmindsetisoneofopennessandcollaboration.Whenwerealizethepotentialofthisculturalshift,wewillimprovethewayinwhichweliveandworkand,aseconomicdevelopmentorganizations,bemoresuccessfulatourcoreworkcreating,retainingandattractingcommerce.Statement:RichardLongworth,FellowattheChicagoCouncilonGlobalAffairsandauthorofCaughtintheMiddle,recentlykeynotedaneconomicdevelopmenteventinourareaandillustratedhowthechangingglobaleconomyisseparatingregionsintowinnersandlosers.AccordingtoLongworth,thoseareaswhofailtoembracethisnewlandscapewillhavenoplaceintomorrowseconomy.WearealreadywitnessingmanyMidwesterncommunitieseducatingyoungpeopleonlytoseethemleave;takingtheirideasanddreamswiththemastheyseekoutvibrantareasadeptatassistingandleveragingthetalentstheyoffer.Theseincreasinglymobileworkers,andthecompaniesforwhomtheyworkandcreate,willgravitatetoregionsthatembraceamindsetofinclusivenessonedefinedbyopennetworksofideas,peopleandcapital.TheCedarRapids/IowaCityCorridorhasfaredcomparativelywellduringthismostrecentrecession,butnowisnotthetimetoreturntobusinessasusual.Rather,itistimetoengageintheGoodtoGreatconversationandembracethechangingglobaleconomy.WehavemanyoftheassetsandingredientsinplaceorathandtojoinotherdynamicregionssuchasAustinandBoulderwhichattractpeopleandcapital.Theseregionstrulydemonstrateandconstantlyworktoenhancetheirculturesofinnovation.Nothingispreventingourregionfromachievingthissamekindofsuccessandgeneratinginternationalrecognitionandacclaim.Nothing,thatis,exceptadeeprootedMidwestmindsetthatalltoooftenperpetuatescomfortwiththetraditionalstatusquo,isoverlyriskaverse,andconsidersnovelthinkingasafadchallengingtraditionalinstitutions.Whatstepsarerequiredaswebeginourquesttowardaregionalcultureofinnovation?StepOne:UnderstandWhatitMeanstoLiveinaCultureofInnovationTheMidwesternmindsethasnotalwaysbeenantiinnovation.CompaniessuchasJohnDeere,Pella,Amanaandothersbecamewhattheyareasaresultofembracingchallengingideasandtakingcalculatedrisks.Aftereconomicshiftsandscaresofthe1980sandearly2000s,Midwesternersnow

  • relishourroleandresponsibilityforbeingthedevilsadvocate,protectingourturf.Whenconfrontedwithnewideas,wearequicktodiscusspotentialpitfalls,satisfiedthatwehavehelpedafriendorcolleaguemitigateunnecessaryriskandindoingsohaveunknowinglyheldtothestatusquo.Whatappearstobeleadershipisactuallyprejudgmentandassumption.Wearepronetogettingboggeddowninthehowbeforewetrulyunderstandthevalueofthewhy.Askanyonewhohaseverstartedabusinessinourareaorstateinthepasttwentyyearshowchallengingitcanbetoopenmindsandgainsupportforanewconcept.Betterstill,askthosewhochosenottoopenabusinessorwholefttheareaaltogether.Itishardenoughtostartanewventurewithouttheadditionalchallengesofovercomingtheantagonists.Youmaybepronetothisstateofmindevennow,withoutknowingit,comingupwithreasonswhyacultureofinnovationisnotthebestapproach.ItisnotsurprisingthestateofIowaisnearthebottomofmostrankingsonnewcompanyformationandcapitalgrowth,whilealsonearthetopinpercentageofcompaniesoperatingformorethanthirtyyears.Itisnotthatcompanylongevityisbad,infactretentionandgrowthareeconomicdrivers.Whatisbecomingincreasinglyimportantisdevelopingabalancedportfolioofnewandemergingcompanieswithestablishedoperationsthatembracecreativityandinnovation.OvercomingthestatusquomindsetwillbeTHECHALLENGE.Butjustlikeinbusiness,wheresuccessfulcompaniesrecognizeeverythingtheytouchispartofthesalesprocess,sotoomustweseektorealizeinnovationshouldbethefoundationofeverythingwedoasaregion.Thisculturewillbedefinedbyaninquisitivenaturewhichisopentoserendipity;realizingnewmarketsarefoundandcreatedwhenwelookbeyondsectorlimitationsandopenourthinking.Wemustreprogramourselvestoacceptthemeritsofnewideaswithoutfeelingthreatened.Wemustrecognizethatlongtermsocialcapitalisasimportantasshorttermmonetarygaintoourcollectivevisionandourfuturesuccessasindividuals,organizations,businessesandcommunities.Intheend,wewilllearnthatlongevityisfueledbyinnovation,ratherthanseeingthemasadversaries.Acultureofinnovationisnotmerelytherealmoftheentrepreneur,butanembraceofalevelofthinkingforeachofusintheCorridorwhoyearntoachieveourhighestpotential.Itisasystemicrethinkofhowweplan,engageandsolveproblemsaspeople,professionals,businesses,organizationsandgovernments.Ledbyanunderstandingthattheconventionalmaynotbethemosteffective,thisculturalshiftwouldmoveusawayfromtheimpulsetolimit,control,protect,predetermineandrestrict.Instead,wewouldembraceacollectivemindsetwhichlooksforthepossibilitiesofnewideasandtheopportunitiesofchange.Arichnessofexperienceandpersonalgrowtharisewhenpeoplebegininteractingandsharingwiththosetheyhavenotworkedwithortakenthetimetounderstand.Wemustrealizeourturfneednotbemutuallyexclusiveandstatic,butwillbesignificantlymoresolidwhenflexibleandshared.Celebratingandembracingtheuniquenessofourcommunities,businessandpeopleisnotdilutednorlostaswebuildthiscultureofinnovation,butratherthisprocessproducesexponentialexperiencesandopportunitiesforusall.

  • Innovationariseswhenweallowideastomigratebetweenandamongadiversesetofminds.Ratherthancovetingourthoughtprocess,innovationutilizesanopensourcemodel,embracingwithconfidencethatthecollectiveandtheindividualswithingeneratesignificantlymorerewards,creditandprofitthananyoneentitycouldhaveinisolation.ThesearetraitsthatdefineregionslikeAustinandBoulder.Ratherthanfearingthosewithchallengingnewideas,theseregionshavelearnedtocollectivelysupport,encourageandprovideassistance.Theydonotrelegatethisjobtoahandfuloforganizations,butrathertrustitisapartofeveryonesroleinthecommunitytoactivelyengageinthisprocess.Howdowearriveatthisculture?StepTwo:MaketheCommitmenttoBringingthisCulturetoLifeintheCorridorIfwewanttoliveinaregionrecognizedinternationallyashavingacultureforinnovationandanentrepreneurialspiritforeveryone,wemustfirstcommittomakingthisourgoal.Ithasbeensaidthatyoucannotcreateaculture,andwiththisweagree.Atrulygenuinecultureofthistypecannotbecreatedbutitcanbeenvisionedandendeavoredwithnewthinking,newapproachesandbyutilizingexistingassetsinmorecreativeways.Movingtowardthisculturehasitsownsetofchallenges.Typicallywhenwedesirechange,agroupofleadersseekstoenactitintoreality.Thisrunscountertowhatweenvision,becauseacultureofinnovationcannotbecontrolledorshapedbyahandfulofminds.Wemustresisttheurgetooverthinkandoverplanandinsteadallowthisculturetotakeshapeonitsown.Thistypeofculture,likeeachofus,worksbestandproducesmorewhengivenroomtobreatheandaffordedautonomy.Wecanbeginbyinjectingthiswayofthinkingintoeachofourorganizationsandbusinesses.Wemustsupportanenvironmentthatgivesallourcitizensawaytodirecttheirownlives;tolearnandcreatenewproducts,services,companies,andthelike,andtodosoinsuchawaythatwebetterourlivesandthosearoundus.Weshouldnotseektopredefinewhatthisculturewilllookandfeellike,butratherletittakeashapeanddirectionofitsownvolition.ThisrunscountertohowwehavetraditionallysolvedproblemsorviewedourrolesasMidwesternersinthepast,butitisvitaltoreshapingourcultureintoonethatcanflourishintheunforgivingglobaleconomyathand.Sohowwillweknowwhenwehavegottenthere?Whenpeopleknowourstorywithoutushavingtotellit.Whenpeople,businessesandcapitalgravitatehereautonomously,withoutextensiveoutreachandunsustainablefinancialincentives.Infact,thisnewenvironmentwillbeourstrongestincentive.Wewillneedanewsetofmetricstomeasureoursuccessintheneweconomy.Thistoowillbeanenjoyablepartofthejourneyindefiningwhoweareandhowfarwehavecome;onethatwillrequireustoaskdifferentquestionsofdifferentpeoplethanwehaveinthepast.Again,ourbasicprioritiesaseconomicdevelopmentgroupsarenotchanging.Weare,however,challengingthewayinwhichtheworldseesus,suchthatwearebetterabletoaccomplishourmissions.Sowheredowestartatachievingsuchaseeminglyambiguousandambitiousgoal?

  • StepThree:StartActivelyPuttingPeopleandIdeasTogetherIfaninnovativecultureisamindsetwhereideasflowfreelybetweenpeopleandorganizationsandourgoalistocreatesuchaninvitingandinclusiveregion,thenwemustbegintodojustthat:bringpeopleandideastogether.Thereisalreadyanundercurrentinthismarket.Attimesweseeitandfeelit.Wearenottryingtocreatesomethingoutofthinairbutinsteadactivelyengageinmixingtheexistingingredientsinanewandbetterway.OnJanuary11,2011,wewillunveilanoverarchingumbrellabrandthatwillidentifyeventsinourregionwhichcapturetheessenceofthismindsetandbringinnovativemindstogether.Manyofthesewillbetiedtolargerglobalinitiativeswhichalreadyhavesomelevelofbrandrecognitionwecanleverage.ExampleswouldbeJellys,StartUpWeekends,IgniteConferences,TechBrews,BarCampsandothersimilarunconferencesandevents,ultimatelyleadinguptohighlyvisibleandinternationallyrenownedeffortssuchasTEDxevents.Astheeconomicdevelopmententitiesintheregion,wecanhelpcoordinateandorganizesomeoftheseactivities,yetastheculturedevelops,otherideaswillemergefromoutsidegroups.Iftheseconceptsholdtruetothemissionofbuildingthisinnovativeculture,wecanutilizethebrandtodriveaudiencesandresourcestohelpmakethemsuccessful.Thisishowwebridgethetraditionaltotheinnovative;preservinginstitutionswhilestillencouragingemergentthoughtandsolutionsuntiltheculturetakesholdandselfgenerates.Anotherwaywecaninfluencethewaypeopleengageandinteractistocreatephysicalspacesorencouragedevelopmentofspaceswithintheregionwhereinnovationcantakeplace.CurrentlybothendsoftheCorridorareexploringhowtocreateknowledgeecosystems.Thesearenotincubatorsaswetraditionallythinkofthem,butratherphysicalcoworkingplaceswhereentrepreneursandfreelancersworknexttoindividualsfromexistingcompanies,artists,students,writersandvisitorsonadailybasis.Knowledgeecosystemsareplacesdefinedbytheiraffinityforattractingopenmindsandfacilitatingtheongoingflowofideas.Similarspaces,includingTheHiveandNewWorkCity,havestartedtotakeholdthroughoutthecountryinthepastfewyears.Tobroadenthereachoftheseeventsandspaceswewillutilizeexistingsocialnetworkingplatformstoexpanduponthemomentumandlinkagescreated.Overtime,theseeventsandspaceswillprovetocatalyzenewcompanyformation,increasethenumberofworkerslivingintheregionworkingremotelyforoutsidefirms,anddevelopnewmarketsfromthiscollaborativeprocess.Ultimatelythisculturewillspreadintoallbusinesses,organizationsandgovernmententitiesintheregiontohelpthembetterengageandcapitalizeonnewopportunities.Theglobaleconomyischanging,butitneednotbesomethingtofear.Ourregioncanremainvibrantandbeoneofthewinnersifwecommittoleadandinnovate.Wemustrethinkhowwesupportourexistingcompanies,grownewfirmsandincreaseourattractivenessforrecruitingnewemployers.Ourorganizationsrecognizetheincrediblepotentialofwhatwecanbecomeifweembracethisvisionandtakethesesteps.Developingthisculturewilltaketime,itwillbeanongoingquestrequiringhundredsofengagedSherpatoguideothers.Westandunitedatthefootofthemountainexcitedforthejourneyaheadandconfidentthattogetherwewillsucceed.