Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Needing New Behaviors

I fully agree with Guhan Venkatu who is an economic analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, that the reasons for Cleveland’s woes are not what are commonly cited. Guhan Venkatu presented an economic commentary for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland titled “Cleveland (on the) Rocks,” February 2006; posted March 2006 which may be read here. However, the reasons put forward by Venkatu fail to take into account what I feel may be the most major factor in Cleveland’s failure to thrive. Cited, but taking a minor position, are lack of qualified workers, the quality of life, access to transportation or distribution networks, or regional regulation and tax policies. Many of those problems may also be more perceived than actual.

Cleveland has long had a problem with the behavior of its leaders in relationship to each other and to new entrepreneurs. The region needs to build an aura of trust and collaboration. The collaboration needs to be that which encourages individual identity without the fear engendered by the thought of consolidation.

Cleveland leaders need to encourage all levels of entrepreneurship from concept, startup, mid-market, and maturity. Open communication also needs to take place. We need to have strategic thinking that leads to strategic doing rather than strategic planning. Time and again over the last several decades consultants have come in issuing strategic plans over eighteen month periods, saying the same thing. The region holds feel good events with little or no focus on how and where we move forward. We finance the flash that brings stars to the eyes but which soon fades. We look for the short term gain, especially for real estate developers and the construction industry which fail to provide for sustainable economic development.

We all need to work with our schools, colleges, universities, and libraries to teach new models of behavior, treating each other in ways that build mutual respect and trust. We need to re-envision our agendas into categories that are less narrowing: envision brainpower versus education, collaborative networks versus hierarchies, wealth creation versus command and control.

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