Ray Goforth once said, “There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world: those who are afraid to try and those who are afraid you will succeed.” When it comes to local community vision, this quote hits the nail on the head. Local communities are full of small-minded and poverty-minded leaders and influencers – you know the ones I am referring to, those afraid to think big and those fearing failure. I would suggest communities without big dreams and vision are only biding their time as irrelevance draws closer each day.
It is easy to discuss the importance of vision, innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity, but not always so easy to put those words into specific action and more importantly, positive results. With that is 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 the 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 positives.
Now let’s discuss the importance or critical nature of 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 ‘community’ 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 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 today about Hartford CT. 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 their version of an incubator that promotes, encourages and houses innovation, creativity and local entreprenership. 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 lack of innovation, dreams and vision. A community with big dreams can go farther than they 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. Don’t let your lack of vision be your downfall – let it be your driving force and mission.
John A. Newby, author of the "Building Main Street, Not Wall Street " column dedicated to assisting communities combine synergies with local media companies allowing them to not just survive, but thrive in a world where Truly Local is lost to Amazon, Wall Street chains and others. His email is: john@360MediaAlliance.net.