In the weeks following the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation’s Leadership Exchange (LEX), I’ve been reflecting more on what I brought back with me. I think of LEX as a “pop-up incubator,” where great ideas and talented people come together to exercise their civic leadership and create community impact. While the careful curation of these trips is what makes them special, it also is about the broader exploration of the cities we visit and how we share in those experiences together. It magnifies the call to action and inspires collaboration and innovation that has truly transformed our region – this is the place where we all thrive!
On our first intercontinental LEX trip, we took away key findings to inform our own work on talent development and apprenticeships, affordable housing and city planning. Whether it’s creative land use or transportation for the future, a common element that continued to emerge was the innovation necessary to solve big issues facing cities across the globe.
But innovation doesn’t just happen; here’s how we can build a culture to foster it:
Synchronize your leaders. Our opportunity lies in coupling innovation with the knowledge we gained in Munich to develop a synchronized approach for using our region’s assets to their full potential. Bringing together our talent and leadership with our assets is really what creates better outcomes. And taking ourselves out of our day-to-day routines, like we do on LEX, sparks our creativity around innovative approaches and solutions to big city challenges like housing, transportation and workforce development.
Test, learn and repeat with tech. While in Munich, I had the opportunity to visit IBM Watson where research/development and innovation are fueling technology that will forever change the way our cities operate. These technologies will provide efficiencies and conveniences that we can’t even imagine today and should be part of our design-thinking approach to talent, land use, transportation and any other major issue we face. Technology can become overwhelming, and we could find ourselves trying to do too much. My takeaway is to test, learn and repeat and then focus on a couple of creative approaches that have the biggest impact. There is a big opportunity for public-private collaboration in this space.
Borrow from a winning playbook. That’s exactly what we do on LEX when we look to others for advice as our community expands and faces new challenges, like housing prices and traffic congestion. Munich showed us examples of innovative affordable housing options, downtown redevelopments that activated spaces and people and apprenticeships for everything from manufacturing to banking.
Stay true to how your community leads. We are fortunate to live, work and play in a place where like-minded, yet distinctive, business, community and civic leaders work together to bring about positive change for our region. We may not always agree on the path forward, but one constant is that leaders in this community care deeply about opportunities to learn about possibility, creative solutions and innovative approaches to tough issues.
One of my favorite quotes about leadership reminds us to always ask what’s next: “The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power.” Our region is much younger than Munich, but we’re growing and changing. This is one of the most exciting, yet potentially divisive, times in our history. How we lead through this time matters.
Cindy Parsons is the vice president of market planning and strategy for Comcast.