By Dean Whittaker

As our communities become more global in their perspective, we find that competing through innovation becomes the key to survival of many of our companies. “The Rise of the Creative Class” and “Live first, Work Second” are two books that tout the importance of attracting and keeping talent as part of the demographically induced “talent wars.” The emphasis on diversity as it contributes to creativity has also become an economic imperative. Collectively, all these reflect the “idea infrastructure” of a region.

How do ideas flow through your micro-culture? Are there lead walls between companies, or do ideas easily flow through a low viscosity infrastructure which facilitates the transmission and, more importantly, adoption of new ideas?  The TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference is an example of the type of infrastructure that can facilitate the flow of ideas. Its tag line is “ideas worth spreading.” The 20-minute presentation of BIG ideas by world thought-leaders is fascinating to watch on the conference website.  This Monterey, California, conference illustrates a process by which ideas are introduced and connections made to promote their further development and commercialization. If you think about it, the iPhone is an example of an innovative product that comes from the intersection of the three domains represented at the TED conference.

What if your area were to hold its own TED-type conference on the three domains in which your area excels?  Could this provide a forum to lower the viscosity and increase the velocity of the free flow of ideas within your area? What other impediments exist to the movement of ideas from creation to implementation? How about non-compete laws that exist in some states but not California? Do your capital markets support commercialization of new ideas?

If competing through innovation is our future, what are you doing to help create and sustain a local infrastructure to enable this rapid viral dissemination of ideas?  Do you have ideas to share? Pass them along and I will report back in our next newsletter. In the meantime, Happy Holidays.