Strap on your goggles...It’s a whole new game

Submitted by Ed Morrison on Thu, 07/14/2005 - 21:41.



Northeast Ohio will be transformed by open networks of collaboration with colleges, universities, and libraries in the middle of these networks. Our region created enormous wealth with industrial strategies. Now, to build our future prosperity, we need to shift our focus to networks, knowledge, and collaboration. 

Building trust becomes a critical component of our ability to generate wealth. Economic development happens in the “civic space� outside the four walls of any one organization. No “command and control� system works in the civic space.

A mayor cannot tell a city council what to do. A city council cannot tell a chamber of commerce what to do. A chamber of commerce cannot tell a school board what to do. You get the idea.

Yet, we need all of these organizations -- government, business, education, foundations -- working together to secure our future.
Older industrial regions have a hard time making this transition to new thinking. We are victims of our past success. We are used to “command and control� approaches in both our business and our civic life.

We now need to build new civic habits of dialogue and inclusion. In the past, conversations were “just talk�. In the new world of knowledge and networks, conversations become the way we make connections, build relationships, develop our understanding, align our efforts, live and work together.

The trick is to translate conversation into action. This requires a more willful and disciplined approach than we normally follow. I-Open -- the Institute for Open Economic Networks -- is dedicated to accelerating innovation by building these civic networks.

Why networks?

We live in a world of networks. Our economy represents a set of networks embedded in other networks. Our challenge is to see the world in this new way. The Internet is not only an exciting means of collaboration. It is also a powerful metaphor for understanding a world in which knowledge and collaboration build prosperity.

Reflect on your own life. How many ideas or projects can you translate into reality on your own? Not many. You rely on the power of your networks to get things done. 

The first step in building open networks involves connecting.

That’s why “civic spaces� are so important. Colleges, universities and libraries can provide these civic spaces. We start by inviting people to have powerful conversations around critical issues facing our communities and our region.

What would our region look like as a global leader in sustainability?
What steps could we take to build our creative industries?
How do we build wealth in inner city neighborhoods?
How do we accelerate the adoption of new models of preventive health care?

The second step is engagement.

Deep, purposeful conversation involves understanding each other’s perspectives and aspirations. As one wag put it, “We are all watching our own movie.�

In a networked, knowledge economy, communities and regions will rise or fall based on the quality of the conversations taking place within them. Generating and managing quality conversations becomes a key skill for effective civic leaders.

Quality dialogues reach to the “inner sanctum� of hidden issues that people, in fact, want to talk about. Power emerges from conversations that are guided to explore real thoughts, feelings, assumptions, and aspirations.

The third step is to take action: to innovate.

To be sustainable, civic conversations must lead to results. We need to build bridges and look for small victories. In this way, we build the trust we need to accomplish even more ambitious goals.
Innovation is the process by which we take new ideas and put them into action.

These ideas can be a s simple as developing a new neighborhood festival. Or, they can be as grand as launching a new model of regional health care.

Innovation takes open networks. Through these networks, we identify resources, align these resources to specific objectives, and execute action plans. We can expect three outcomes: an advanced agenda for action, shared learning, and stronger relationships.

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