I wrote the following as a response to an ongoing debate on incentives that has been occurring on one of the LinkedIn groups that I follow. There’s been a strong yes-no-yes-no tone to the conversation, with a few people who oppose the use of incentives on principle butting heads with a few who adamantly believe that incentives are important and valuable.
I’m posting this here because that conversation seems like a microcosm of the ongoing debate.
And if you’re going at it as a yes-no-yes-no, on-off switch kind of choice, stop it. You’re not doing anyone any good. including yourself.
Instead, we have to start asking:
What are we trying to do? What are the tools we have available? What does our data tell us about how they’re working or not working? How do we get better information on that?
And if it doesn’t seem to be working, how can we adjust our tools or add to the toolbox to give us a chance of doing what we’re supposed to do?
That’s the right conversation. That’s the conversation that addresses the sober responsibilities that we have to our communities. Time to grow up a bit.
Thank you again for leading the charge into this critical element of debate. We need this debate. We need it. And we need much more invested in the debate than we’re-just-fine-don’t-rock-the-boat.
Every business and every profession has to grow and change — we of all people should know that, given the amount of time we spend with people who live in the business world. And given the intersection where economic development lives — of government pressures and blinding business change — we absolutely have to take a cold-eyed, critical look at what we do, how we do it, how that needs to change and how that can be done better.
Part of the problem that surfaces here and in the previous debates on this group about incentives and the like is that we are looking through an insect’s compound eyes: we as a group represent a thousand differing perspectives, and we are being pushed harder than ever to make a coherent whole out of the picture — by voices outside and inside the profession. And it’s a lot easier for any of us to just insist that the view through our little lens is the right one.
But we are reaching a point, whether it’s due to techology changes or government pressures or the information that the general public can grab and use and share without our spin control, where we can’t pretend not to hear those voices anymore. The profession has to turn a critical eye on itself, clearly understand its strengths and limitations, and change,
It’s not a binary choice — it’s not “Everything is fine!!!!” or “Everything stinks!!!”
Critique is a part of growing up, and in times of pressure you have to grow up faster than at other times. We all have some growing up to do – in this and in all the other professions that are on the hairy edge of our understanding of how communities and economies work. But we can’t rest on some claimed laurels today, more than ever.
So, new questions:
What do we have to do to make the real estate component part of economic development more valuable, more meaningful to communities? What else do we need to be accounting for if we intend to have a positive impact? Are our current methods creating unintended negative impacts — impacts that have hidden consequences for communities?