Taking the Long View

by Kevin Cottrell

Everything seems to be dropping. Home values, stock prices, and employment. It’s a hard time for everyone, everywhere. This economic environment can also drag down our ability to be creative and optimistic about the future. Perhaps most challenging for leaders is the intensity of dealing with immediate and tactically important issues at the expense of taking the long view in order to be strategic and thoughtful. And yet a leader’s long view vision for the future is absolutely vital to moving our communities and organizations forward to both recovery and prosperity.I certainly have found myself struggling with these very challenges in the past few weeks and months, but was pleased when I ran across a recent article in The Atlantic this month. New York Times best selling author Richard Florida has penned an article called “How the Crash Will Reshape America.” I had an email exchange with Leadership Southern California (LSC) 2009 Fellow Colleen Haggerty who shared that she “found [the article] a fascinating exercise in urban analysis” and thought her LSC colleagues would find it valuable.

Florida’s work focuses on the creative economy, workforce, patterns of urban development and the emergence of mega-regions. This particular article touches upon how the future of mega regions, including Southern California, are best positioned for the future as a result of their ability to incubate innovative technology and creative sectors and attract and cluster the “big talent” that will both fuel recovery and sustain future economic growth. Sadly, Florida points out that that some regions may succeed and others may simply not recover.

I was glad to exchange emails with Colleen, because it reminded me of some of our recent Leadership Southern California sessions and how Southern California might accelerate its recovery and propel future growth. In our session in Los Angeles, we saw that we have the world’s leading cluster of creative talent in music, film, arts, and design. In our session in Orange County we experienced the importance of technology clusters and the transfer of knowledge from our universities to economic and social development. And in our session in Riverside County we saw the push for downtown redevelopment and the arts, as well started to rethink the housing crisis aftermath. Even this daunting issue made us think of innovative regional solutions. For example, does the drop in housing prices and the new supply offer us new options for affordable and work force housing for first-time buyers? Obviously the opportunity rests with a creative coordination of efforts and a return of the credit markets.

Reflecting on previous LSC sessions reminded me about the importance of taking long view our region’s opportunities. Today’s tactical decisions should be connected to the vision for tomorrow.

-Kevin Cottrell Executive Director, Southern California Leadership Network and Vice President of Leadership Programs, L.A. Area Chamber

Image credit: Sean McCabe for The Atlantic