Monday, August 11, 2008

Creative Virtual Communities

The Proximity Rule should be broken, not heeded. And if cities are analogous to businesses, at least concerning the issue of talent, an Australian company's innovation might interest Rust Belt cities (i.e. Pittsburgh):

The model is an attempt to stop the inevitable “brain-drain” of experience and knowledge as the plant’s work force ages. The project models and demonstrates a number of jobs around the iron-making plant, such as how to do a mantle change. In the metal plant, machinery must be taken apart, parts replaced, and then reassembled in extreme conditions. The 3D model is a step toward making the entire process clearer for new workers.

When I write about Pittsburgh's economic cluster of solving the proximity problem, the above virtual training technology is what I have in mind. Eliminating the need for face-to-face interaction is the goal. Startups such as ImpactGames strive to make long distance collaboration viable, thus enabling the hive mind to solve problems. In this world, there is no such thing as brain drain as long as you remain connected.

Regarding the migration of talent, quality of place gurus such as Richard Florida help cultivate the awareness of cool cities that might otherwise escape the notice of the geographically mobile. The best way to learn about an ideal relocation destination is to visit that city and speak with like-minded locals, face-to-face. Perhaps unwittingly, the place rankers are attempting to take travel out of the decision equation and minimize the proximity rule. Conveying over a long distance the value proposition of a certain neighborhood is difficult, which is why many cities struggle to attract talent.

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