Innovation in Community Development

I’ve just come from giving an invited talk to the “Exploring Innovation” conference, hosted by the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank. Andy Hargadon was also a speaker at the event, and it was great to hear him talk again and to have some time to catch up with him. The audience represented community development experts from around the country, all interested in making their activities and their organizations more innovative. I always learn a lot from the insightful questions that come from audiences after my talk, and this event was no different. Because my talk emphasized the power of collaboration and of group genius, many people wanted to know “What should I do if I’m dealing with an extremely uncreative group?” Examples given included city councils and city governments. My talk also emphasized the importance of connection and cross-fertilization, which led several people to ask “What should I do if my region is balkanized, with each locale focused solely on what’s best for them?” These are great, tough questions, and I have no easy answer for these folks. The real answer is that innovation isn’t likely to emerge until these deep seated structural features are changed, so that regional networks start to look more like the types of networks that generate substantial innovation. No single person can make this happen; it will take a concerted, long-term, broad change to regional culture and ways of doing business.

3 thoughts on “Innovation in Community Development

  1. Hello,

    I’m deeeply involved in innovative engineering.
    What do you think about eastern people (particularly chinese) – are they able to accept massively innovative engineering methods in their manufacturing process?

    Thank you,

  2. I think all people are capable of the same high potential for innovation. What changes from place to place are organizational forms and cultural attitudes. It’s possible for a collectivist culture to generate innovation; many Japanese companies do so, Toyota is everyone’s favorite example, Sony is another.

    China hasn’t gotten to this point yet, but I think it’s only a matter of time. I don’t know how long it will take but it will probably be sooner than we think.

  3. Reblogged this on and commented:
    This short, simple blog post speaks volumes about the mediocrity that holds so many communities back from growing, evolving, and becoming part of the global network of open, supportive, innovative communities.

    Competitive and divisive strategies in the governance of municipalities is a big part of the vulnerabilities that brought legacy cities down to their lowest points in the 20th century. Most all of them have adopted new, progressive models and are seeing improvements. Thousands of rural towns and small cities though, have not learned the lessons of the urban centers. They remain stuck in ruts of conventionality, preferring to live with blight, banality, and almost ubiquitous emigration by young adults with any means rather than making bold changes or embracing new ideas.

    Please read this and more of this author’s articles to be inspired by the great rewards to be reaped for creativity and innovation.

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