We can’t continue to say we’re in a crisis and fail to act. This is something you’ll regularly hear me say if you find yourself wandering around TechTown. This mantra grew out of my frustration with excessive discussion, evaluation and planning, which seems to regularly take the place of good old-fashioned action.
We live and work in a city in need: Detroit. Not only is Detroit a large city (139 square miles, 40 square miles of which are blighted or vacant) that has consistently lost population (31 percent since 1990), but its population is 83 percent African American, and minority businesses make up only 15 percent of all private business revenue in Detroit. Only one in 30 African American businesses have one or more employees, compared to one in three white businesses.
Detroit has only 27 private sector jobs per 100 residents, compared to 81 jobs per 100 residents in Pittsburgh, 39 jobs per 100 residents in Chicago and 54 jobs per 100 residents in Cleveland. Meanwhile, non-residents hold 70 percent of the jobs in the city. Since 2007, Detroit’s median household income has fallen by $5,000 to $25,000, compared to a national median income is $51,000.
We have no time to waste when it comes to delivering economic development programs. The needs are critical and the people we serve are growing impatient.
We don’t have time to plan every step of the way or avoid screwing up a couple of times along the way. We have to have the courage to decide. We have to be bold enough to use our best intellect, experience and due diligence to plan and make movements.
And, sometimes, whether we want to or not, we need to slow down and reflect. We have to really take time to unpack what’s working, discuss what’s not working and think about why? A thoughtful analysis can lead to powerful solutions, community engagement, stakeholder support and may also help us avoid pitfalls.
The secret, the art of the dance, is in the balance between urgency and thoughtful deliberation. How much time do we spend on each? When are we being careless, and does that look different than brilliance?
I’m not sure we ever really know the answer to that question, but I am confident we know when we’ve struck a balance – when we’re getting important work done and taking just enough time to evaluate, measure and pivot with intent.