Saturday, August 21, 2010

Getting Specific--Fine Grains

Large grain, and fine grain, and the variation in between are terms I can't remember exactly where I picked them up, but they describe how closely or how broad a perspective we are taking.

With this post, I'll begin referring to specifics with some commentary.

In my research travels today, my brother sent me a link to a piece from The Vancouver Sun  giving a nuts and bolts look at Vancouver's high property prices and some implications for the future of our intellectual capital.

Here is the bit that most grabbed my attention:
"High housing costs have a great way of killing innovation and creativity. Can the next Facebook or the next Apple computer really come from Vancouver if you’re too busy trying to pay the rent?”
The upshot, he says, is that Vancouver is increasingly seen by the young as a nice place to hang out for a couple of years, but not a place to settle down.
“That’s serious. You’ve got to think about what’s down the road. They’re not going to be here to support us, to pay for our social infrastructure and all of that.”
 How much this is happening to creative young talent is hard to say, but given Vancouver's epically high housing costs, it is something we need to have on our radar. We need to attract and keep all the innovative and creative talent we can.

The second piece that caught my attention today was a opinion piece by Jock Finlayson (executive vice-president of policy at the Business Council of B.C.),  Ineffective Planning in Metro Vancouver, this coming from the BCBusiness magazine.

The economic section of the draft plan is preoccupied with agriculture and ignores the many other industries that drive Metro’s economy and support 1.25 million regional jobs. Scarcely a word is devoted to manufacturing, advanced technology, tourism, the port or the film and digital media sectors. Readers could easily be left with the impression that farming is the dominant industry in Greater Vancouver, which is far from the case.

Metro Vancouver’s army of planners and their largely disengaged political overseers have a habit of steering clear of issues such as competitiveness, the region’s connections to external markets and the impact of public policies on industry structure, job opportunities, business location and investment decisions.

 Whatever your political leanings, a document, no matter how well meaning, purporting to plan for the year 2040, is folly from a systems thinking point of view. It's not just that the document is flawed--the quoted paragraphs illustrate that well enough--the premise itself is highly flawed.

We can have a vision of what we would like the city to look like, what key areas of livability we can work towards, we can have design parameters, we can have a process to get there, but having too rigid a plan this far in advance of a future we can only vaguely imagine is ill-conceived.
We need far more flexibility, distributed inputs and feedback loops to grow with the kind of dynamic adaptability than a static plan can offer.

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