The Long Game
Old places can accomplish new things.
Boston and Tokyo are both about 400 years old. Yet we’re different when it comes to planning for the future. Not long ago, Tokyo finished building a new island in its harbor, and a new city on that island, complete with a subway system that runs without human intervention. The goal? Explore what its future might look like by building “a showcase for future living.”
Closer to home, Toronto recognized a few years ago that it was losing ground in the sciences, so it deleted two-square kilometers of its downtown and replaced it with the Mars Discovery District, a vast collection of intertwined university research facilities, commercial research space, and the best biotech incubator space I’ve ever seen—and I’m an incubator guy.
Tokyo and Toronto prove it’s possible for places to set ambitious goals and achieve them.
Recently, at the Nantucket Conference, I interviewed a successful Boston-area CEO who reminded me that smart organizations think long-term. With sales of over $500M, Robert Keane’s 15-year-old Vistaprint dominates its sector. Yet he remarked, “We are a young company. This is the beginning of the Vistaprint story. Our management’s perspective is decades, not years.”
Greater Boston should take a page from Tokyo, Toronto, and business leaders like Robert Keane, and dedicate energy to thinking long term and thinking big.
Let’s not kid ourselves: we haven’t been doing this lately. Other than putting a car tunnel underground and creating a ‘subway line’ that looks suspiciously like a bus service, I can’t think of much we’ve done in the past 20 years that one could fairly describe as BIG.
Visions for our future in the Boston area will not be handed to us on a platter by President Obama, or anybody else. We need to craft them ourselves. It is time we began a dialogue about what we would like to accomplish together. I invite Xconomy readers to share here their personal grand visions for our future. What should we set our sights on?
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