Archive: culture

November 13th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Cities | Comments Off

Millennial City: How a new generation can save the future, Ch6-2

This book, being released first as a serial blog, is a collaboration with Dennis Walsh and this blog is Part 2 of Chapter 6. To those who made recommendations on title possibilities, thank you! Chapter 6 begins the second half of the book, which we will publish as an e-book when the serialization is completed. The book grew out of conversations that Dennis and I have had about the future of cities, sustainability, and the millennial generation. We think that these three domains, if you will, are coming together to create a new future – and just in time we hope.

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CHAPTER Six – Part 2
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

America is a land as diverse and unique as its people. From Atlantic to Pacific, we value and respect our individuality. While change is inevitable, the destruction of a community’s unique character and identity is not. Progress does not demand degraded surroundings. Communities can grow without destroying the things that people love.

Some decry the effects of globalization on local culture or cultural autonomy. Few advocate the dissolution of differing cultural identities. But the most important question facing states and policy-makers is what to do in this increasingly competitive world environment? The impact of a trend toward sameness has been stunning.

The more one city comes to look and feel just like every other city, the less reason there is to visit. On the other hand, the more a city does to enhance its uniqueness, whether that is cultural, natural or architectural, the more people will want to visit.

American cities must re-examine their role and purpose as well as define their appeal to ‘consumers’. They must distinguish themselves from their competitors and position themselves as a recognizable brand in an increasingly international market place.

Relying on past success is no longer enough. Today, successful companies and young talented people are less likely to have hometown loyalty. They can choose where to cluster. Cities with distinctive characteristics, be they economic, cultural, environmental or life style, will attract the best companies and people.

The built environment is a key way of distinguishing one city from another. Cities have always done this, building iconic structures such as the Eiffel Tower, or promoting particular styles of architecture.

To be richly endowed, like Rome, with cultural treasures is obviously a tremendous advantage. This majestic heritage continues to attract people from all over the world, reinforcing its long-standing reputation as the Eternal City. For Rome, as with any other city of culture, history is an essential ingredient of its identity, image, and attractiveness.

But, as in life, there is the need for caution. Distinctiveness won’t solve everything, and lots of other issues matter. The more we are consumed by the idea of turning cities into world-class metropolis’s like Los Angeles or New York, the more we lose touch with our local traditions. And the more we focus on integrating our local economies into the global economy, the more we lose control over how our communities will develop. In the race to become globally competitive, valuable resources are being diverted away from meeting community needs.

This has two consequences: local politicians may be prepared to sacrifice the needs of local interest groups or communities in order to attract growth and investment, though one could argue that this has always been the case. But it also means that, with the bulk of investment coming from outside, cities are in danger of losing their distinctive characteristics. For instance, when a corporation such as Wal-Mart or McDonald’s opens a branch operation in my city, they are not trying to enhance what is unique about it, they are looking to replicate a successful formula that is relatively the same the world over.

Around the world, cities are seeking the recipe for economic success in a rapidly changing global marketplace. Well educated people, the ability to generate new ideas and to turn those ideas into commercial realities, connectivity to global markets, and multi-modal transportation infrastructure are all indispensable assets.
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[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]

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January 13th, 2011 | By Contributing Writer | Posted in Business & Economy, Innovation | 1 Comment

What’s So Great About Sheryl Sandberg’s Ted Talk AND What She’s Missing

This is a guest blog by Jean Brittingham.

I was very pleased to see Ms. Sandberg, COO of Facebook suggest some solutions for the mistakes that we women make in making our way in the work world. And even more pleased to hear her acknowledge the significant issue of dualism in our society as it relates to the interpretation of strong men and strong women. We (and in most studies and instances this includes women) are not so sure that we like strong, passionate, forceful and successful women as leaders. We’re pretty sure that we do like those traits in men.

This hard truth is a glimpse into a primary and deeply embedded belief in the culture of human society that is at the heart of why the leadership shift that we need must happen through a massive and meaningful women’s entrepreneurial movement. Only in a society where we have changed the culture from the top of our own organizations will the other efforts to gain equal access and opportunity meet success.

Really?

Yes.

And here’s why. Culture is an amazingly strong and unwieldy force. It is largely unnamed and invisible. Asking someone to explain the essence of their organizations’ culture is like asking a fish to explain water. The Denison Culture Survey folks, arguably the holders of the world’s leading database on organizational culture, say that culture is like an iceberg—most of it is hidden and underwater. Further, it is that hidden and unacknowledged part that will wreck your ship.

In his book Ishmael, Daniel Quinn unveils the concept of “mother culture” as a way of helping us understand not only how ubiquitous and unexamined most of our culture is, but more importantly how deeply we respect and obey these unexamined norms. Our culture is who we are and what we will become. It is our protection and nutrition. Our laws and societal norms don’t form our culture—they are built upon our culture.

So where does this strong aversion to women as leaders come from and why does it endure even now when the world has dramatically shifted to one where the very skills unique to the female half of our species are those most needed in leaders today?

At this point I could go into a long discussion and explanation of the role that the rise of the male-dominant monotheistic religion and the concurrent rise of legal property rights has played in creating our current culture. But let’s suffice it to say that these ideas, of right and wrong for women, have been in development for millennia (which is a very long time).

But we can simplify the analysis dramatically if we examine the primary mechanism of culture—the conversation. The language and stories of society offer us a most interesting window into the issue of strong, competent women as somehow “wrong.” Our feelings about this, individually and collectively, are set from the beginning by the language chosen to support the culture.

Good girls are Nice.

Good boys are, well–just good.

And everyone knows, nice is different than good.

Nice is polite, pleasant, kind and respectable and modest.

Good is skilled, superior and respectable.

There you have it.

It can be no surprise then that corporate cultures expect women to be capable and nice and know their place and men to be capable and skilled and get the job done no matter what. After all, nice girls grow up to be women and good boys grow up to be men.

And it’s just not very likely that this dominate culture, which prevails in nearly every corporate, government, religious and civil society organization on the planet today, will change no matter how consistent women are in being at the table, keeping our hand raised and negotiating for better and more equitable compensation.

It will change in two related and meaningful ways.

First, by men and women openly talking and exposing this culture without recrimination or need for apology. And second by building new companies with new cultures that work the way women entrepreneurs work. Their success at navigating the waters of the next economy will be the final tipping point for a return to balance between the masculine and feminine in the power structures of our society.

Because as Sheryl says, “if half of our countries and half of our companies were run by women, it will be a better world.”

It would be good and nice.

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December 24th, 2010 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Business & Economy, Environment & Energy | Comments Off

Keynote Speech for SONAE Finov 2010 – Reflections

It was my favorite keynote speech of the year, and one we’ll leave up here for the holiday break, with Happy Holiday wishes to everyone.

The event was FINOV 2010, an annual event of the SONAE company at which they honor individuals and teams for the innovations of the past year. This year the conference took place in a centuries old former monastery in Porto, Portugal, a spectacular setting.

I was not familiar with Sonae when they first contacted me, but soon learned that they are the largest employer in Portugal with nearly 50,000 employees and with an expanding international presence. The company began in 1959 manufacturing wood panels. From that modest beginning the company has grown into a diverse conglomerate. They continue to manufacture panels, but that has become a small part of the business. Now Sonae is known as a retailer and developer, as they build and operate “hypermarkets” and shopping centers in Portugal and elsewhere in the world. From that they have branched into specialty stores including mobile phones and networks with some 15 brands. They own hotel and resort properties as well.

While in Porto I was escorted on an extensive visit of the new Gold Level LEED Certified headquarters for Sonae Capital, as well as distribution centers, stores and a shopping center. What is evident is that Sonae has a real commitment to innovation, sustainability, and quality. They have a very deliberate strategy to encourage innovation throughout the company, and the FINOV conference is the annual culmination of that.

In my program I was asked to address both the longer-term megatrends, and specific trends and expectations in manufacturing and building supplies, mobile communications and IT, consumers and retail, tourism, and more.




Glen with CEO Paulo Azevedo on his right, Chairman Belmiro de Azevedo on his left, and Cathy O’Dowd, Mt. Everest climber and another speaker on the end.






The take-away for me was that Sonae is a company to pay attention to as a model of sustainability, and of building a culture of innovation.

The full video of my speech is posted here. You can also find this speech along with many others on our Futurist Keynote Videos page and our Featured Videos page.

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