Expansion of the Fittest

Expansion of the Fittest

Waymaker has been hard at work expanding and tweaking services to meet your new, post-COVID-19 realities. As leaders in government, industry, and higher education shift their attention from long-range planning to immediate survival, we have been busy gathering expertise and resources to support you during the transition.

We are most proud to welcome three new members to our consulting team.

Phil Hockberger, Ph.D., joins us to offer leadership and expertise in higher education, research infrastructure, and innovation district planning and development. Phil is an experienced scientist, teacher, speaker, and administrator and has held numerous leadership roles at Northwestern University.

Phil brings empathy and recognized leadership to the myriad training, research, and business issues academic leaders face in today’s post-COVID world. He was recently appointed to Mayor Lightfoot’s Healthcare and Life Sciences Working Group charged with contributing to the 10-year economic development plan for the City of Chicago and recently founded the Chicago Biomedical Innovation Alliance to foster communication and coordination among stakeholders interested in building innovation districts in Chicago.

Dennis Lower also comes with an illustrious career as he transitions out of his role as CEO of Cortex Innovation Community. For 25 years, Dennis has been involved in developing urban innovation districts that position regions to be competitive in the global technology economy. His areas of expertise include mixed-use master planning, real estate structuring and development, incubator/accelerator planning, co-working and shared office space planning, public/private partnerships, public incentives, equity and inclusion, and district sustainability planning.

Dennis has received a number of local, state, and global awards and was recently named as a steering committee member of the Global Institute on Innovation Districts headquartered in Basil, Switzerland.

Dougan Sherwood joins us as an expert in innovation district planning and development, site selection, and entrepreneurial ecosystems. Dougan spent more than 10 years as a member of the senior leadership team at Cambridge Innovation Center, where he oversaw CIC’s expansion in St. Louis, Miami, and Rotterdam. Dougan also led the team responsible for the launch of sites in Philadelphia and Providence. Dougan has deep experience forging partnerships with state legislators, mayors, chancellors, entrepreneurs, corporate heads, and chambers of commerce leadership, among others, and brings critical expertise in the buildout of entrepreneurial ecosystems.

No Risk, No Economic Impact

No Risk, No Economic Impact

We’re in conversations right now with some cities struggling to determine whether or not investments in the innovation economy are too risky, or if the change in patterned behavior will be too disruptive. Some cities struggle with competing political interests. While these cities debate and postpone commitment, other cities are eating their lunch, investing big in innovation because they know the ROI will be exponential. Chicago is the latest city to get on the innovation bus. A new $500M public-private investment will (conservatively) create 48,000 “new economy” jobs over the next decade, 27,000 support jobs and help 23,000 people get better jobs. Kudos to Gov. Pritzker, DPI and others for taking the hard, risky leap into the future. Chicago will put itself on the map again because of investments like these while others languish and get left behind.

https://www.chicagobusiness.com/greg-hinz-politics/once-generation-south-loop-project-gets-boost-pritzker-500m-funding-move

America is Slipping. Should the Feds Intervene?

America is Slipping. Should the Feds Intervene?

A recent Brookings/ITIF report announced recently that nine out of 10 tech jobs were created from 2005 to 2017 in just five U.S. markets: Boston, Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Nine out of ten. Roughly half of the remaining 382 markets lost jobs in the same industries; others gained but not as substantially as the top five. So, what next? The authors propose—and we wholeheartedly agree—that the federal government invest in the top eight or ten most-promising-for-innovation markets in the middle U.S., providing the necessary jumpstart cities need to successfully seed growth. Not a crazy idea if you understand that some of our country’s earliest research parks were heavily funded with federal dollars (i.e., Raleigh-Durham, Boston, etc.)  

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/09/business/economy/innovation-jobs-cities.html

The Super Heroes of Middle America

The Super Heroes of Middle America

As Waymaker closes up a three-day tour with generous Midwestern hospitality provided by the leaders of the Cortex Innovation Community, it sinks in deeply: innovation leaders in the middle part of the country are made from a special kind of mettle. Leaders of Cortex, a 200-acre model innovation ecosystem built in the heart of St. Louis, started with zero resources and lots of resistance. I’m certain every breakthrough innovation leader would say the same, but St. Louis offers some unique and inspiring lessons for the rest of the middle U.S. Our takeaways from the trip can be applied to any of us pursuing advancement through technology and innovation: Champions and champion-level investments are required. While on the ground, much credit is given to founding partners BJC HealthCare, the Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis University, the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) and Washington University in St. Louis; not enough external recognition is given to the visionaries who “sold” the project and its required initial investment of $29M. William Danforth and the administration of Washington University strike me as the superheroes in this narrative, with later leadership coming from Donn Rubin of BioSTL; Dennis Lower of Cortex, and others. I left with astonishment as the true level of sacrifice and tenacity came into view.

Reinvention is a long game. Rushes to find partners, make commitments, or set trajectories will be met with certain failure.
Cluster strategies don’t always apply. Leveraging a market’s natural strengths makes sense for some, but not all markets in the middle U.S. Strengths in declining industries don’t always translate into success in innovation ecosystems, so new strengths must be imported and built. Place matters. I know we’ve all heard this, but it can’t be repeated enough. Next-gen workers rate environment much higher than former generations. Catering to their needs is not optional.

No One Can Do It Alone is Cortex’s slogan and its rung in my ears for weeks. Single entities (municipalities, universities, corporates) who have invested independently of one another in innovation efforts are already finding the error of their ways. While it’s understandable—this is a new game after all—institutions becoming inter-dependent will become the new skill, art, and key to success.

While St. Louis folks will tell you they’re still fighting for more growth, more inclusive prosperity, declining populations, and unequal access to education, they’ll also tell you there’s never been a better time to be in St. Louis. I would have to agree. To be affiliated with a project that has, against all the odds, made such progress in such a short amount of time tells me the flywheel is spinning and the future super bright. Kudos to the unsung innovation superheroes of St. Louis, Missouri.

United We Stand

United We Stand

We’ve been doing some planning work here at Waymaker and as we fine-tune our services and offerings, I keep coming back to this piece so beautifully articulated by David Brooks. A commentary on our country’s current division(s), it lands as a tribute to Frederick Douglass. Regardless of how Waymaker is positioned within the market, this belief is at the absolute core of what we do. Thank you @Nicole Thomsen for the share. It is the belief that all humans have souls. It is the belief that all people of all races have a piece of themselves that has no size, weight, color or shape, but which gives them infinite value and dignity. It is the belief that our souls make us all radically equal. Our brains and bodies are not equal, but our souls are. It is the belief that the person who is infuriating you most right now still has a soul and so is still, deep down, beautiful and redeemable. It is the belief that when all is said and done all souls have a common home together, a final resting place as pieces of a larger unity.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/10/opinion/frederick-douglass-detroit.html

It’s Happening

It’s Happening

It’s taken a while to get here. Admittedly, I was isolated, extremely, while living and working in Austin’s tech bubble. But the last three years has allowed me to not only dive deep into a number of different industries but to understand from CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs about the challenges technology adoption and integration will be bringing to the middle part of the U.S. in the coming years.

The pace of disruption seems to be picking up…I’ve fielded an increased number of calls from founders and executives who have either been jilted by acquisitions or management changes affiliated with innovation; been invited to help companies manage change, speak on the topic of innovation and, most recently, to help CEOs define innovative pathways for their organizations. All calls begin with, “we know you help communities manage and lead change but…surely the techniques are the same?”

I chalk the inquiries up not to Waymaker’s exposure but to an increased need in the market. Industries that have been more protected from implementing new technologies are facing increased pressure from boards, consumers and Wall Street. Parts of the country that have been isolated (with the exception of job losses in manufacturing) globally are also starting to feel the pinch.

Is leading transformation for a community the same as for a company? Yes and no. Change management for both starts at the top. Vision, leadership engagement and communication are key factors in the success of efforts both arenas. Breaking down silos is also a common thread. Ensuring departments—or institutions—are all communicating with one another and partnering for shared success is also key. Communication and defining a narrative for an organization are also key within a community effort. Engaging employees—or in the case of a community, small business owners, entrepreneurs, and future entrepreneurs—is a critical step within the process. Perhaps, however, the most challenging aspect of any change effort, regardless of whether it’s within an organization or community is culture (you knew I was going to say that right?). The topic of culture is how almost every successful leader I know spends the majority of her or his time…defining it, refining it, managing for it, removing barriers, celebrating successes.

In the coming weeks, Waymaker will be taking the question of culture, innovation, and change through technology to our network. In the interest of finding common ground, defining a shared vision across geography and industry and, quite simply, to let others know they are not alone. We hope you join us on this adventure and participate when and however you’re able. You’ll be helping us define the product and hopefully in the long run, join an ever-increasing network of humans faced with the same challenges and opportunities around some of the most fascinating topics of our time.