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Wednesday, June 09, 2010


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Much of this is plain on its face. On the other hand, a "100 most creative people" list is bound to biased against the Midwest regardless of the region's economic health.

Much of the area's economic strength is from old-guard companies like Dow, Caterpillar, ADM, McDonald's, Ford, Kraft, 3M, various insurance giants, P&G. Even the region's technology success stories tend to be conservative: Monsanto, Abbott, Medtronic...

I'd like it if the Midwest dominated that list. That being said, part of the reason we don't is bad; part of the reason is good.

Also worth pointing out, this list is completely dominated by New York and the Bay Area. (I did see they included Cleveland in the Midwest and Pittsburgh in the North East) If this list--or the perception that created this list--is a problem then it's a problem for all of Texas and Atlanta, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Oregon and Pennsylvania too.

Aaron: thanks for making this point.

I think the Midwestern cities need to pay attention; a reversal won't just happen. Attract innovation, which I believe means attract more immigrants and youth. Invest in incubating innovators. Improve education in innovative fields - both for higher ed and for trades.

Each of us are on the frontline in terms of communication and connecting, telling stories. Social media gives us access to people that were previously unavailable. We need to use the megaphone and the network.

Eric, even if you completely discount the survey (and I think that's certainly a valid viewpoint), it illustrates importantly the perception of the place. New York and the Bay Area are top of mind when people think of where it's at. The Midwest and South are not. That matters even if there's no reality to it. (And by the way, there's clearly some reality, as this survey only reflects what many other more authoritative people have in the past).

Might it be better to say that New Yorkers and the Bay Area have poor vision than to say the Midwest does stand tall in their eyes.

The CEO of a major creative company headquartered in Chicago and with offices in other major cities in the US and Asia said to me recently, "We call ourselves an international firm, but we really cannot be unless we are in New York."

His comment evoked the concept of geographic "spikes" referenced in John Hagel's recent book, "the Power of Pull," and the significance of talent clustering in certain areas to take advantage of the serendipitous encounters that yield creative ideas, expanding opportunities and mutually supported success.

Without question, the Midwest has either done little, or done little ineffectively, in getting a message out about creative businesses and creative opportunity in the region, but it is difficult to develop and attract attention away from the "pull" to established clusters of creative energy in other places.

How much attention could be brought to the Midwest by a more prominent promotion and profiling of the half-dozen people on the FC list, and the inevitable others in their networks who may be doing similarly creative work?

If there is a "lesson" in the Fast Company list, is it that the story of people is more important than the story of place?

Lady Gaga is the most creative person in business? Really? I'm not taking this list too seriously.

I also flinched when I saw her at the top.

But once you understand how Lady Gaga became a global brand almost overnight and how she is rigorously leveraging her brand through a variety of media, you will understand there is much that Midwest cities and states can learn about attracting the attention and interest of investors, visitors and resources.

I'm not joking when I say I would be very interested in hearing her thoughts about the strategies a Midwestern city should consider if it wants to reposition itself in the global marketplace. Maybe that's a bridge too far, but it would probably still be a fascinating conversation.

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