Five Ways to Build a Culture For Innovation in Michigan

5/5/10

First of all, don’t be fainthearted. Let’s face it, the Michigan workforce has been trained to perform in very hierarchical institutions, where compliance is rewarded and innovation is not. The old days are gone, but the attitude lingers. It will take serious blood, sweat, and tears to turn this around.

Second, seek out the community leaders in government, communities, organizations, etc., that together can help instill a sense of “we’re all in this together.” If Grosse Pointe cares little about what happens in inner city Detroit (for example), then making the changes necessary to invigorate the urban communities will be next to impossible.

Third, city officials who care about the city (Detroit or wherever) need to be creative about targeting tax incentives for small businesses. It will be the small businesses that bring about change, strengthen the state’s economy, and ultimately improve the tax base, but that’s in the long term and hitting small businesses with big taxes early on will only prolong the problem.

Fourth, encourage more community educational partnerships between local schools and the great academic institutions such as the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, so that educational excellence can be reemphasized and kids have a fighting chance to get an education.

And finally, celebrate your successes. The state and the city of Detroit have been down for so long, it’s easy to forget that there are indeed achievements and visceral signs that change can occur. Celebrate your victories LOUDLY.

[Editor's note: To help launch Xconomy Detroit, we've queried our network of Xconomists and other innovation leaders around the country for their list of the most important things that entrepreneurs and innovators in Michigan can do to reinvigorate their regional economy.]

Stewart Parker is the CEO of the Infectious Disease Research Institute in Seattle. Follow @

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