Innovation, Change, Bring It On

Needed: Urban Innovation Hot Spots

Cities should become living innovation labs, says Saul Kaplan. Only then will we come up with bold system changes that work

By Saul Kaplan

I have been asked by Living Cities, a philanthropic collaborative of foundations and financial institutions, to participate in an upcoming economic development roundtable, Changing the Trajectory of an Urban Economy, taking place in Detroit on Mar. 5. Organizers asked each of the participants, public and private-sector leaders from across the country, to provide an answer to the following question:

Given your experience, what are the most “game-changing” ways to use $100 million-plus to change the trajectory of an urban economy?

In other words, if I were given a free hand to use $100 million-plus of grants, what would I do? Here is my answer. I suggest that we turn cities into innovation hot spots.

We are playing defense based on old industrial economy rules and systems. We must play offense to create a 21st century innovation economy in which all citizens can fully participate. A new national economic development conversation should bubble up from cities.

Cities should be living labs. If cities become innovation hot spots, new investment and jobs will be created. We need ongoing R&D for new transformative models and systems. Developing a 21st century innovation economy depends on it and would also enable solutions for the big system challenges we face, such as health care, education, workforce development, and energy sustainability. These are system challenges that will not be fixed with incremental tweaks. We must design, demonstrate, and deploy new system approaches to these challenges. And the solutions should be coming from our cities.

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An Email Exchange about Leadership

Last night I received this email. You’ll see my response below. I’d welcome comments. I suppose that what I’m about to ask you for is not your main area of expertise, but I’m going to ask anyway (as a starting point, if nothing else). Lately, I have been through much searching for answers regarding my life and work. Ultimately, I have come to the conclusion that the best first step for me to take would be finding the right company to work for. Toward that goal, I wonder if you can direct me to resources, ways, places or people who know more about companies’ cultures than just what they tell prospective investors? As a pointer, let me say that I currently work for a company whose ownership and management is arrogant, greedy, selfish, malicious, culturally limited, closed-minded, and would rather employ and promote their cronies who do barely-passable work than… Read More