Roy T. Bennett once said, "Don't let others tell you what you can't do. Don't let the limitations of others limit your vision. If you can remove your self-doubt and believe in yourself, you can achieve what you never thought possible."
When it comes to local community vision, this quote hits the nail on the head. Local communities can be the home of well-meaning, small-minded, and poverty-minded leaders and influencers -- you know those to whom I refer, those afraid to think big and fearing failure. Communities without big dreams or visions are biding their time as irrelevance draws closer each day.
It is easy to discuss the importance of vision, innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity, but it's not always so easy to put those words into specific action and, more importantly, positive results. With that in mind, let me offer a few suggestions regarding vision, action and innovative thinking that local communities might consider.
Let's tackle innovation first. Those living in the innovation world understand a few basics relating to innovation. The art of innovation -- and it is an art -- involves failure. Without failure, you simply aren't innovating aggressively enough. What is the art of innovation? You fail fast, you fail cheap, and you know when to move on.
Innovators understand the best lessons obtained are those obtained through failed innovation. All great innovators throughout time failed more times than they succeeded. Each failed innovation taught them something that would be used in future successful innovations. Ty Cobb, the man many considered one of the greatest hitters of all time, with a lifetime batting average of .367, failed .633% of the time, but each failure taught him what to expect the next time, turning those many failures into future positives.
When it comes to vision, we can go all the way back to the Bible to find references relating to the importance of vision. Proverbs tells us, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." We might substitute the word "communities" for the word "people" in that quote. As I have worked with communities, businesses, and news media companies, a common ingredient of a stagnant community or business is a lack of vision. You show me a great community or business leader, and I will show you a community or person with great vision. One will not come without the other.
So how can a community show great vision and inspire innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship? Most smaller or local communities have a common albatross: too many empty buildings. While some buildings may not fit the bill, many of these old buildings are great structures; they just lack a loving occupant.
I saw a great piece a while back about Hartford, Conn., turning an old Swift Gold Leaf factory into a great community incubator for innovation, opportunity, job creation, educating youth and spurring economic growth throughout the community. While Hartford isn't what we might consider a small or even medium-sized community, this idea can resonate on a smaller scale in any community with just an ounce of vision. I would encourage every community to have its version of an incubator that promotes, encourages and houses innovation, creativity and local entrepreneurship. That would be the very definition of vision with action.
I have touched on many topics over the past year but I will say vision, without a doubt, may be the most important aspect or trait a local community can nurture. Many of the traditional problems plaguing a community can be attributed to a lack of innovation, dreams and vision. A community with big dreams can go farther than it can ever imagine. A community with an innovative spirit can overturn decades of decline and poor past decisions. A community with a strong will and vision can attain heights otherwise never deemed or dreamed possible. If you build it (vision), they will come. Not only will they come, they are much more likely to follow those leaders and business owners with vision.
Let me close with another great Roy T. Bennett quote. "Good leaders have vision and inspire others to help them turn vision into reality. Great leaders create more leaders, not followers. Great leaders have vision, share vision and inspire others to create their own."
Don't let your lack of vision be your downfall -- let it be your driving force and mission.
John Newby is a nationally recognized columnist, speaker and publisher. He consults with communities, businesses and media. His "Building Main Street, not Wall Street" column is enjoyed by more than 60 communities around the country. As founder of Truly-Local, he assists community and business leaders in building synergies that create vibrant communities. He can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed are those of the author.