Reestablishing your playing field

Cities should pitch at the right aspirational level and identify a place in the urban hierarchy of their region or country or globally that reflects strong ambition and works with the grain of their cultural resources. Many cities are unrealistically ambitious and others hold back too much. An assessment of the city's drawing power will reveal the territory in which it is competing. It can then with calm urgency develop strategies to strengthen itself and capture territory in the imagination of others and for itself. The central question is: Can you get to the next level, adapt to change or be energized within existing frameworks, budgets and skill sets?

Cities across the globe face complex opportunities that are distinctive to each place. For Perth in Australia it may be to invest resources sustainably for the next generation while they are going through their boom period, or for Port of Spain in Trinidad to build on the manifold skills involved in Carnival to ensure livelihoods throughout the year. Possibilities cannot be grasped by a 'business-as-usual' approach. The stakes are high and cannot be harnessed solely by traditional means. A shift in aspiration, courage and will is usually required. And it will not happen overnight. A closer look at cities which have succeeded, such as Curitiba, Barcelona or Copenhagen,4 shows startling differences between what they are doing now and what they did before: Copenhagen's considered, long-term plan to create a walkable city; Curitiba's approach to efficient bus transport; Barcelona's capacity to remodel its new urban areas.

The unfolding storm of globalization will affect the operating system of cities worldwide. We could cope with these changes at every level if they happened slowly and one by one. But they do not. They are happening at speed and simultaneously, and their deeper impacts have not emerged in their entirety. Cities can ride the wave of global trends and possibilities easily, but do they end up where they want to? To avert the dynamics that harm them, they need clarity of purpose and an ethical vision to direct dynamics so their own goals are met. Superficially cities might look and feel the same in the future. There will be places in which to live, offices and factories in which to work and places in which we can shop and have fun, but the underlying operating system - the software - will be different.

Choosing when to resist or go with the flow of turbo-capitalism will be pivotal for cities wishing to move forward. As Dee Hock, the founder of Visa Card, notes, 'Change is not about reorganizing, re-engineering, reinventing, recapitalizing. It's about reconceiving! When you reconceive something - a thought, a situation, a corporation, a product, [a city] ... - you create a whole new order. Do that and creativity floods your mind.'5 Given fuller rein, the impact of change and creativity on organizational culture is far more than people wish to admit or are willing to let happen. Yet change is necessary as old material factors - raw materials, market access - diminish in significance. Cities then have two crucial resources. First, they can mobilize their people - their cleverness, ingenuity, aspirations, motivations, ambition, imagination and creativity. Second, they can harness new resources by seeking different ways of collaborating and connecting better - connections between people, varying groups, different decision-making bodies, various parts of the city, the old story of the city and an emerging new one, and, crucially, their city and the wider world.

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