J. Paul Getty once said, "In times of rapid change, experience could be your worst enemy." That has never been truer than it is today.
In today's rapidly changing economic environment, trends we have followed for years will only get us in trouble. When you couple that observation with a fundamental truth regarding change, you have real problems. The truth is that people generally hate change.
Saving your local community or your business must be a passion. This can only be accomplished when your local community and its business base are able to work together and form common synergies. They must be willing to balance traditional strengths with new strategies through true transformational disruption. Rules that used to drive your community and business survival have changed. What was once stability is now a rapid change. What was once tradition has become enhanced innovation. What was once consistency is now creativity, vision and sheer determination. Incremental change is dead on arrival; only those changing through highly disruptive innovation will thrive.
Are we really willing to change?
Your communities, your chambers and your business bases will be unable to thrive in the future without working together and creating a truly local mindset. That is plain and simple. The sum of a team working together will always exceed the individual efforts, however great they may be. Time is of the essence; working together is vital. This is accomplished by coupling the local community's current initiatives and goals with building a more cohesive communitywide team capable of success. While creating the roadmap and building the synergies may not always be easy, it is imperative that it be done. In most cases, this is very difficult without outside assistance due to local agendas and personalities. But when done, these newly found synergies increase the strength of the underlying foundation, which will spark your transformation.
As I have traveled the country, I am constantly amazed at the innovation, creativity, pride and local spirit evident in many local communities. In nearly every instance, I experience these elements and see the vast potential. Yet despite these ingredients, most local communities are failing to attain their full potential. Ideas usually aren't the problem; it is the execution of those great ideas that needs some refining. But when you build your community army of support on the backs of new and effective communitywide synergy, nothing is impossible or unattainable. That synergy is created through innovative communication, team building, and innovation.
Here is a catch that I see very often, many communities believe they are doing the right things. In most cases, that notion could not be further from the truth. Yes, they are doing the comfortable things, they are doing the traditional things, they are keeping busy, but they are far from meeting their potential. Don't confuse meetings, action and movement with productivity; those are two entirely different things. There is nothing more debilitating for a community or business than continuing to work hard on a path that leads nowhere, yet far too many insist upon doing this. To achieve their full potential, your community, business base and residents must be doing very uncomfortable things. They must be willing to cast aside their differences and their traditional thinking. In essence, they will be leaping into the unknown.
Acceptance will always fall on the heels of awareness. Often we don't know what we don't know. Not knowing, however, is never an adequate excuse. Much like observing and forecasting the weather, it is the community, the chamber and the business community's task to monitor the storm clouds on the horizon -- but not only observe them; attempt to harness the winds and rain to their advantage as they occur.
Your community and business base are staring in the mirror at what Clayton Christiansen referred to as the "innovators dilemma." We must ask ourselves, can we overcome the traditional culture in our business or community? Thus, the real question becomes, what is looking back at us in that mirror?
John Newby, from southwest Missouri, is a nationally recognized columnist, speaker and publisher. He consults with communities, businesses and media. His "Building Main Street, not Wall Street" column is read by more than 60 communities around the country. As founder of Truly-Local, he assists communities, media and business leaders in building synergies that create vibrant communities. He can be reached at: [email protected]