A Cities Innovation Primer

Innovation is a big buzz word, next to social and crowd, next to smart and data. It would help if those who use them would build strategies around the concepts, rather than use them for marketing purposes.

I have already written about benchmarking cities. While Berlin is trying to beat London at being the natural home for start-ups, incubators in ever city have a story to say about their environment. There is one on top of the cafe where all the city’s entrepreneurs hang-out and so it’s great for networking, there is another chosen by a big bank to have an innovation unit, and so forth.

I have two things to share with a city politician who wants to build a thriving innovation hub.

  1. Know your specialisation. Differentiate yourself for having a clear vision of the sort of city you want to be known for. This involves a clear understanding of whose life you want to make happier (your user), and who is going to pay for it (the customer). That understanding must have a compelling story. The happy user must be a person you can clearly identify in your city, and who you can talk passionately about to the entrepreneurs. Only then will you attract the right sort of talent, then they will do the drive the product development.
  2. Open up the data. Invest in building a good understanding of what’s happening. Capture the numbers and make sense of them. If they back your story, you have something going on. If they say a different thing, you have another (still useful) thing going. You and the entrepreneurs will learn a lot. Your city must embody the businesses that it helps build and once they have proven themselves there, they have already become successful at improving people lives in a manner which they can understand (and thus hopefully be able to replicate elsewhere).




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