I’m always looking for thought-provoking mp3s to listen to while I walk for exercise. Lately I’ve been listening to Smart City by Carol Coletta, which i gather is an NPR program about issues of urban development. This particular episode happens to feature Alan Webber, co-founder of Fast Company.
Webber says a lot of stuff worth listening to. One point that’s really grabbed my attention is the importance of iconic projects in moving from a plan to implementation. Since I’m someone who’s much better at devising plans than implementing them, this should be a topic tailor-made for my needs.
Around 20:00 Webber describes an experience working for the mayor of Portland, OR, in the 1970s. As he describes it, PDX back then was nothing like the annoyingly hip place it is now. A key step in its development of a pedestrian friendly, transit-compatible downtown was their success in luring the Seattle department store Nordstrom, which apparently even then had enough cachet to lead the revitalization of downtown.
The point is that one such “iconic project” can be critical to promoting a broader change effort. It’s really something I need to hear. Mind you, on a visceral level I think I’ve realized this before — for example, back in Massachusetts when we talked about getting a place for the Pit kids to hang out, this had the potential to be an iconic project. In more mundane aspects of my daily life, something like getting to where I can beat a live poker game soundly enough to make a modest living at it before I start investing effort to learn how to beat more advanced but potentially more profitable online games would be an example.
I will try to think a bit more about other places I can apply this lesson in my life. Back to the whole underground outreach topic, I think that’s one area where I can apply this principle. I just need to get involved in something local and helping bring it to some modest plateau perceived as “success” (which of course only really comes by the Holy Spirit).