Every time I tell my friend Rob Hatch some new idea, he always asks, “What would that look like?” He wants to know how something would play out in the real world. When I explained Idea Friendly to him, of course he asked, “What would that look like?”
I came up with some comparisons of what regular small towns may look like, and what an Idea Friendly town might look like instead.
Being a big thinker in a regular small town:
When you bring up a new idea, other people hit you with negativity and stubborn pessimism. Other people seem to only see the bad things in the town. People tell you “we tried that already,” and “that’s not how we do things here.” People ask, “why should we listen to you? Your last idea didn’t work.” This has happened to you so often that you start to play it out in your head. Hearing the negative voices in your mind, you hesitate to bring up ideas any more.
Being a big thinker in an idea-friendly town:
When you bring up a new idea, other people’s attitudes are generally positive. You can feel this even before you bring up an idea because your town shows its attitude with awards for ideas, public recognition of experiments, plans that allow for new projects and ideas to come up, and measurement of innovation. You’re not alone, because connections throughout the community mean lots of people bring up ideas, and connect with each other to work on them. You can try a small-scale version of your idea in an innovative environment with small-scale stores, co-working spaces and pop-up opportunities. Lots of experiments are always going on, and both successes and failures are expected.
What if we could make your town less like the first, and more like the second? What if that could really happen? It can, you know.
I’ve spent the last year doing research, learning and experimenting to find out what would help you change your rural community. The result is an understandable process to Gather Your Crowd, Build Connections and Take Small Steps. That’s exactly what Deb Brown and I will cover when we talk about Idea Friendly next week.
Let me give you just one more glimpse into your possible future.
New retail stores in a regular town:
Anyone with an idea for a store has to develop a plan, save money, arrange more financing, secure a store front, remodel, meet code, come up with shelves and fixtures, decorate, buy enough merchandise to fill the store, hire a staff, market like crazy, and then open. So only a few people ever try their store ideas.
New retail stores in an idea-friendly town:
Anyone with an idea for a store can try it out at a one-day pop-up fair, as a temporary display inside another store, by renting a space the size of a closet or bedroom inside a shared retail building, as a pop-up inside an empty building, as a mobile store by using a truck or trailer, or in a tiny business village based in sheds or tiny houses. Dozens of people try new store ideas every year, and they often grow from one of these options to another as they learn what works best.
That’s what Idea Friendly looks like. It looks like people trying lots of things, succeeding and failing, and a bigger emphasis on trying again than on assigning blame. It’s not about a laundry list of new things to do. It’s about making slight adjustments to what you do now so you get much greater results.
Never doubt that it is possible to make your community more idea friendly. Follow the process: Gather Your Crowd, Build Connections, Take Small Steps.
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