Collidea and Centric founder, Jerry McColgin tells the story of a discussion he had with a cab driver in Boston.
Driver: So buddy, where are you from?
Without hesitation the cab driver replied “Ahhh…the desert.”
“Why the desert?” Jerry asked him.
The driver’s reply: “If it ain’t the East Coast or the West Coast…it’s the desert!”
Don’t get me wrong, I understand where this misconception comes from, but we’ve seen evidence that it is absolutely unfounded. As Hoosiers, it needs to be our responsibility to make sure the rest of the nation knows:
While the rest of the country places us somewhere in the “innovation desert,” I like to think of Indianapolis as our little oasis of innovation. The dictionary describes an oasis as a fertile area in a desert region or a pleasant change from what is usual. Yep, that’s a better description of what’s happening here. Indianapolis is an innovative city; we just need to change our perception.
The dictionary also provides this definition of a mirage: a phenomenon, especially in the desert, by which an object appears displaced to its true position.
I don’t believe this perception of Indiana is an
innovation problem, it’s a mirage problem. Hoosier innovators need to do a better job of revealing ourselves to the rest of the country.
We Have Top Tech Talent
Indianapolis has the innovative talent. In our state, we have 3 top 25 business schools and two top 10 engineering schools, and a good amount of that talent funnels back into our city.
So how do we show that?
What we need is to start showing the openness across sectors that is fueling innovation growth in the Silicon Valleys and Bostons of the country. People and organizations in Indianapolis need to break out of their silos to share more ideas, collaborate on more projects, and start driving a culture of sustainable innovation for the Central Indiana region.
Many of these pieces for Indianapolis are in place. Verge is building a network of startup communities that is gaining attention from coast to coast. Centric is building a diverse, like-minded community of innovators. The Indy 5×5 Series has launched a wave of new arts-inspired innovations across the city. Indiana’s successful innovators come in many different shapes and sizes. Eli Lilly, Delta Faucet, People for Urban Progress, Tinderbox, ExactTarget, Big Car and Butler University to name a few.
We Are Still Growing
The pieces still missing here? Celebrating Central Indiana’s innovation successes, recognizing the other innovators around us and educating those innovators for better sustainable growth. All the players in Indianapolis innovation need to do a better job of acting as each others’ cheerleaders. Indiana is known as a part of the country where work gets done. We are makers and doers. Stop being so quiet about it. Tell somebody about your work, about the work of others in your network. Just as iron sharpens iron, success begets success.
Imagine if the drive and success that led to Indy’s Final Fours and Super Bowl were focused on building our great city as a center for new ideas and innovation. National and global recognition for those efforts would not be far behind as Indianapolis unveils its own innovative spirit.