As a Mayor, City Manager, or member of City Council you have a special duty that you’re likely ill prepared for. It isn’t running a campaign, debating hot topics like climate change and minimum wage, or being a good partner to those managing city departments and resources. No, those are traditional and evergreen requirements, necessary but, insufficient to meet the needs of an increasingly demanding public.
You see, you’re not so much as managing and governing what is these days as you are expected to be concerned with the future of the city. This means innovation. This means growth. It means economic prosperity for every household. This means a safety net for those that need it, whether their home is ablaze, they are a victim of crime, a super storm, or temporarily rendered irrelevant by a divided economy that puts corporate profits ahead of people and the community you govern. It means anticipating what’s next and being proactive, even if you won’t be the direct beneficiary or in office at the time of implementation.
Your city thrives when all people do better. It is up to you to put people and communities first. This will take courage, loads of courage, especially if people with an alternative agenda helped put you in office. Part of your job is managing multiple stakeholders that don’t have goal congruence. You’ll need to manage expectations between competing stakeholders. Getting it right will take more conversations with more people and continued learning on your part.
You need to think and act like a designer, a futurist, and a humanist. You’ll need to adopt new mental models and abandon thinking that trapped your predecessors in a bridled past. But, unfortunately it is likely that you’re poorly trained for these new roles. You might be thinking at this point, “I didn’t sign up for this. I’m busy. That is not my job.” If this is what you think, then you would be wrong.
Rise to the occasion, adopt your new badge of courage, and let’s get to work. There is much potential for your city and I have the confidence that you can do good things, you simply need a little help. I’m going to provide some help, some encouragement, and inspiration. There are plenty of people in your own city that can help, too. They are your co-designers, the people that can help write the story history will one day retell. You’ll need to tap into their energy, capacity, and willingness to get involved in civic matters. That is a challenge we’ll come back to later.
I’ve written The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. It’s a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. There are people working, living, recreating, and passing through your city right now. You and your colleagues have a large task at hand, namely designing better experiences for these people. But, most likely you aren’t even on the same page when it comes to defining an experience, let alone making them come true.
This is the first letter you’ve received from me, but it won’t be the last. I’ll be sharing more. You can get a head start by reading my book. I’m happy to speak with you and members of your extended team. All reasonable people want vibrant, sustainable cities full of happy people. Let’s make that happen.
With sincerity and optimism,
Gregory Olson (reach me on twitter at @fordoers)
About the Author
His latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book to spark conversations among global citizens. In a brighter future, we all live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans. Visit Press-Kit to learn more.
Gregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help. Gregory also serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social investor and financial institution, Oikocredit International.