Books of Interest

Terry Lawhead, The Bearded Librarian

blog-lawhead1For decades the Hollywood establishment has stereotyped librarians as either elderly, puritanical, punitive, unattractive, frumpy and introverted females or statuesque, attractive, women who turn into bombshells when they take off their glasses and let down their hair. This newsletter is going to put those stereotypes to rest by introducing a voracious reader and lover of books who could easily play the new model of a librarian as being well read, intelligent, assertive, assistive and not just a pretty face. Traveling all over Washington State working in rural and distressed communities, he practically lives in his car and his survival kit includes a change of clothes, energy drinks and books. He regularly reviews current books that are relevant to practitioners to help keep them informed of state-of-the-art tools and topical issues. Please feel free to suggest a book that interests you but may not have the time to read. I always thought that reading a review of a book is the next best thing to reading the book itself although my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Brooks, did not think so. Remember, whenever you hear or read of a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light into your community.

Wikinomics How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything

by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams

Notice the date of publication? 2006. I may as well write a review of Moby Dick, right? Today’s Millennial entrepreneurs and others starting up businesses and careers were in high school when this book on Wikinomics came out. You yourself may have been too busy in your own career to have taken notice of it at the time. However, the premise of wikinomics has influenced virtually all aspects of research gathering, strategic planning, marketing and implementation. We work and play in a wikinomics ocean whether we know it or not. This word only gets 187,000 hits on Google but “collaborative culture” gets 106 million. Everything has moved on, Moby Dick to Wikinomics, and there is a Web 2.0 to help businesses navigate a collectivist digital space. It has gone beyond an Information Age to a Networked Intelligence. And it is a good thing mostly and unavoidable anyway. There is a Web 3.0 and projections to a 5.0 although we won’t discuss 5.0; the algorithmic robots win the race by then. For now, we can all take notice of where this collaborative culture is at and work with it. Or work with younger people who know nothing else. An “Ideagora” is kind of an e-bay for freelance problem solvers tapping into a mass knowledge-based marketplace made possible by an abundant supply of intellectual property.Nobody is passive anymore, not consumers or creators; we are all fierce hybrids of each other. Craigslist is outperforming virtually all advertising and, sad to say, is more used that conventional workforce programs for job seekers. A “Prosumer” is a person in postindustrial society who combines the economic roles of producer and consumer. Anything you can hold, drive, ride, swallow as medicine, make stuff on or talk into is made of components made from a hundred places and a thousand patents. Heard this one: “If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead.” We all need to try to generate spreadable ideas, from what we think up for ourselves and what we try to do for our clients and communities. Social media is the virtual tip of the iceberg: the real driving force is how we together, locally and globally, produce and consume solutions and prosperity. Each of us need to try to stay on top of our game, there’s no room for slacking. Because, as Aristotle himself said, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Now there’s an old idea made new.

 


Startup Wisdom: 27 Strategies for Raising Business Capital

by Maury Forman and Jordan Tampien with illustrations by Chris Britt

So, consider: a handful of industries have driven the economy for more than 200 years. Ever since the industrial revolutions began rolling through the 18th and 19th centuries, petroleum, manufacturing, chemicals, natural resources and raw materials, banking, transportation, versions of communication technologies, weapons and real estate have been clustered at the top of the list, with business and political leaders looking out for each other.  With centuries-old competition like that, what is a contemporary under-capitalized start-up to do?  Find new access to capital, of course. Private investments have been stagnant for more than half a century and since 2008 banks, under intense scrutiny, are refusing to risk getting busted for making poor investments. Today’s innovative models are so new – most of them just a few years old – that they are still in quick-mode evolution. Fundraising ideas have never been so important or so available but they need to be better understood; millions of Google hits don’t really help.

This book is what is needed for these times. More of a gentle but firm mentoring than a how-to guide, informative and current and always pragmatic with explanations short and sweet and graced with light-bulb igniting laughter-generating illustrations that illuminate the challenges and solutions to situations people are facing. Maury and Jordan have hit a home run here with almost 4,000 hits in the first week. I can understand why.  Lending options are quickly summarized with “Advantages” and “Disadvantages.”  The labyrinth of baffling documents the SBA produces to explain itself is laid out in four one-sentence bullets.  Activities such as Business Plan Competitions and Lemonade Stands are given the credit they have always deserved in raising entrepreneurial spirit. Will the monolithic financial institutions ever appreciate the vitality that start-ups bring to our culture? Will they respect the boldness of young men and women who are choosing, or forced, to create their own livelihoods?  Finding capital is a version of hard rock mining for small businesses and this book doesn’t claim to reveal some sure-fire shortcut everyone else has overlooked. It does, however, show 27 places to start digging. Some readers have pointed out that reading it from back to front can reduce stress and bring on a smile: The last one depends on having really good luck.

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The Magic Cup

Howard Behar

It is reported American businesses spend almost fourteen billion dollars annually on leadership-training seminars and consider leadership development their number one “human capital priority.” That’s a big investment in something that is rumored to be unteachable—people apparently forge leadership out of living full lives, not attending seminars. What is called the romance of leadership drives a lot of organizations, both public and private, to be fickle about choosing one individual to own the alleged authority of running things. History tells us that the complex unpredictable drama of worldly events is tricky for participants and cannot be reduced to a solvable equation.

Howard Behar gives us a parable that provides for a lesson in the trials and tribulations of earning leadership virtues and he pulls it off in 139 eloquent pages of enchanting storytelling. Now, parables appear to be simplistic moral teaching but, because nothing is what it seems in parables (yet also at the same time illustrating real life challenges), excellent writing skills are required. The literal story is a CEO attempting to revive a company. The metaphorical and magical qualities of the narrative trigger the reader’s imagination and interiorize the events described. The author wants to tell us which character attributes are required in outstanding leaders and it is a real list sensible to anybody and are no doubt in all the Power Points in all those expensive seminars. But they don’t resonate and become vivid scrolled on a screen like they do when performed in a well told story that puts meaning into a succession of events. You, the reader, are in the adventure with the CEO and experience what he does in terms of dangers, self-doubts, teaming up with allies and confronting difficulties. You yourself run the course and benefit from multiple perspectives of characters you meet. Parables want to convey the importance of timeless moral codes and how right living provides the best results. But we don’t want to be lectured to about this, we want to find our own way in the maze and, at the end, be better for having made the journey.  It is both a subtle and profound sensation to come to the end of an entertaining story and find you have gained new insights, perspectives and inspiration about tackling our mutual personal and societal challenges.

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Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis

Robert D. Putnam

Granted, we cannot predict the future.  But the most important and long lasting way we can influence the future is by helping children today.   Children are the future living and breathing in front of us.  The author believes that a couple of the favorite words of economic development professionals, “opportunity” and “social capital”, now depict a situation in serious trouble.  There is less opportunity and social capital for more and more people in America.  The reasons are the usual suspects familiar to anybody not living in a tomb but he introduces a rather remarkable change in our culture:  the decline of “weak ties” among less educated less affluent Americans.  Strong ties and weak ties contribute to community bonds and social networks but are distributed increasingly unevenly.  Weak ties are connections to wider, more diverse networks, crucial for families to tap a wealth of expertise and support.  Those kinds of resources are less and less accessible to those less well off due to declining links via networks.  The author wrote “Bowling Alone” many years ago describing the withering of Americans’ community bonds affecting lower classes disproportionately.  Access to the Internet has not mitigated this problem:  personal networks and access to helpful people—mentors inside and outside of the immediate family—often matter more than the information found.  There has been a longstanding romance with the idea that hard working and successful entrepreneurs come from rough-and-ready backgrounds that may have lacked the amenities of wealthier, more prestigious families in well off communities but had strong character attributes empowering them.  That was true to a certain extent thanks to how families and culture worked but it was a long time ago in a very different world.   Youth now need to learn digital, networking and relationship savvy along with numerous other fundamentals from somewhere else.  If informal mentoring—teachers, pastors, family friends, coaches and others–is less and less and organized formal mentoring—via economic development pushing–doesn’t step up, a large number of youth simply cannot learn the game leading to proficiency and success as an adult much less play in it.  You get the picture about the consequences.  There is a lot of documented sense of helplessness going on in America nowadays about the big issues we are facing.  And with helplessness grows less compassion for those who are disadvantaged.

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From The CEO’s Perspective:  Leadership in Their Own Words

Teri Citterman

We so need more of this kind of thoughtful but tough examination of what makes the heartbeat of our culture’s vital attributes.  The author expertly cleared a lot of brush out of the way to allow these dynamic leaders the opportunity to stand alone and express themselves in their own words.  And while thanks to great interviewing of remarkable CEOs and behind the scenes editing the narratives absolutely work on the page, the book is a cry for a live talk show, for voices and body language and passionate expressions in order that people can witness experientially the fact of leadership.  It is becoming like a near-extinct bird; we need to see it in action.  The producers of the constant floods of literature on data-driven decision making and who babble on and on about it need to read this book before we all choke on uncooked or even cooked data—the crux of the matter is leadership.  The author also dives into the complex issues of five generations of people in the work place with incredibly different life stories and influences and how that is going.  And what we may be able to do to nurture it all along.  I consider this an outstanding example of a facilitated book rather than a 1st person narrative how-to monologue:  she has shaped the story but has stepped away for others to speak.  And yet her presence is felt everywhere and she pointedly asks the reader to do some work.  Okay, enough raves, one observation that could be taken as a criticism although it isn’t:  Teri Citterman, who puts her personal cell phone in the book welcoming calls—I haven’t called but may do so—please examine how we produce, at a young and tender age, the environment that is the soil to grow leaders.  There are innumerable references in your book to such a soil and they are articulate, but I came away with wanting more tools to apply to our culture’s dangerous and fragile future.  This book necessarily focuses on grown-ups who are job candidates, employees and CEOs, that was her objective and she succeeds with it.  There are other such books, of course, but in this dynamic and often chaotic culture—with leadership models in business and politics fluctuating on pathological overdrive—we need to reexamine our assumptions regarding children.  With so many memorable lines in the book it is impossible to narrow them down fairly but I will limit myself to one:  the individual who looks for “start-up scar tissue”.  That metaphor covers so many images of someone who has passion and commitment and the capacity to take risks and even fall, hard enough to open wounds, and pick themselves up and do it all again.   But that is just one of many; all of those interviewed express the embodiment of transformative ideas and ideals affirming an immense power required for a civilization to endure.

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Disrupt You! Master Personal Transformation, Seize Opportunity, and Thrive in the Era of Endless Innovation

Jay Samit

The vote is pretty much in with a message repeated across the vast and varied spectrum of media regarding what is increasingly required for an individual to succeed in his or her personal and professional life. Innovative entrepreneurs have provided for disruptive pressures on the conduct of business for consecutive decades. What still seems bewildering to many of the older generations is simply the way it is to the younger ones and credit for coping is consistently being given to a few character building blocks. The author of this well documented and page-turner of a book was and is a notorious disruptive entrepreneur himself, although he describes his own childhood and youth as being a total loser. Similar to other confessions and pronouncements by extraordinarily successful people, he says it is all about old fashioned values—he quotes Buddha, the Bible, Leo Tolstoy, and Mark Twain among others from past centuries—taken more seriously than we have since the mid-last century (that’s 1950 for some of you who are wondering). They aren’t esoteric ideas but they are challenging ones: Maintaining a positive mindset that seeks solutions. Productive introspection. Toughness when things get hard. Pursuing and sustaining connections with mentors, partners and customers. Acting fearless and nimble as the trapeze artist soaring without a net. Being honest with oneself. And really understanding that the future is not writ in stone but is merely a work in progress that hard working people can influence. Lawyers and lenders follow but not before entrepreneurial determination is in place. None of the above is simple and none is for the faint hearted. The author doesn’t drone on with moral lessons but he does tell wonderful inspiring stories of how we got to now, an entertaining practice for a veteran mentor. “Now” is loaded with structural changes in national economies and collisions of a chaotic global economy making necessity and courage driving forces. There are boundaries and a rhythm to chaos; chaos has been described as order dancing. By the way, the proverb “Necessity is the mother of invention” was introduced in 1658. You’d think humanity would have gotten the swing of things after all this time but we’re a funny species, right?

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all in startup:  Launching a New Idea When Everything Else is On the Line

Diana Kander

A couple things right up front and a confession:  This is not literature nor is it a conventional self-help book about learning to be an entrepreneur. It is a worthy effort to combine entertaining storytelling with serious teachings but it doesn’t excel at either.  It is a New York Times bestseller but can’t fit easily into a genre on bookstore shelves. The characters are somewhat stereotypical, the lessons come fast and furious without context.  The confession? I wish I had thought of it.  The flourishing entrepreneurial training scene needs this kind of snappy if not timeless fiction writing with the finest distilled advice from the best thinkers and doers.  I took a workshop with the Kauffman Foundation, where the author works, and she puts in the best of the best coming out of that fiercely innovative institute.  The problem with even compelling information is that it can be dangerously boring unless enlivened by interesting writing. The chapter headings are worth the price of the book and the sentences she has put in bold type, however clunky it looks on the page, are zingers. Favorite takeaway for me is the notion of finding the pain out there, the real deep pain or what she is terming a migraine, and produce a solution—a business–that removes that pain. Don’t aim at fixing a routine headache a customer is having, look for the agonizing migraine and solve that. There are plenty of those haunting the marketplace but keep reading: Fixing somebody’s migraine is going to be the hardest work you will ever do. Most of the other highlighted ideas and plot devices that drive the story aren’t unknown to those of us working in economic development but she has framed them in appealing, easy to grasp language and—with the sympathetic characters she has invented—encouraged the reader to care about where the story is heading. This kind of writing is going to kill dry textbook styles dead and that is a good thing. You can always pick up the Great Modern Novels Library selections over the holidays.
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How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World

Steve Johnson

Where do inventions and economic development intersect?  And can economic development professionals do anything to affect the process? What do you think are the most important inventions for civilization?  Some have said humble hay, because it allowed for human migration out of Africa to colder Europe and Asia and raise animals and, you know, eventually create the modern world.  Others say eyeglasses, the printing press, the number zero, antibiotics, the vacuum flask (the modern Thermos—how does it know to keep something hot or cold, anyway?), it is a vast list.  But, really, how can one put some kind of limit of importance on the endless number of things we use every day?  Things that make life miraculously easier than it was hundreds of years ago?  Invented things are taken for granted but the act of inventing—and delivering on the promise–is barely understood.  Luckily, it continues full throttle, described and measured in different ways.  Innovation can be intimidating to risk-averse cultures and create serious disruptions but innovation needs to occur and it requires a certain amount of creative chaotic conditions. Worry is afoot:  some say patents are up but the production of scientific research is down, which means global innovation may in fact be slowing.  What does a culture need to believe in to encourage the arts of invention?  One key thing is that citizens need to value and celebrate and reward the entrepreneurial spirit.  Another is to appreciate the “courage of following one’s heart and intuition” (Steve Jobs said that), despite the significant risks of doing so.  A successful enterprise requires many ways of engaging with the world but at its core it has to have a way to invent itself every day.  This is why Global Entrepreneurship Week (or month as Washington has made it) is so important to the economic developer. Inventions+ Innovations + Entrepreneurs = Economic Development. Steve Johnson does an excellent job of telling the story of how ideas came about and who the real inventors were.  They have become the real heroes of sustainability and progress for our communities.
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Collaborative Intelligence:  Thinking With People Who Think Differently

Dawna Markova and Angie McArthur

There are many new tools emerging for economic development professionals because there are so many rapidly changing issues to address. Unfortunately the new approaches are also disruptors for organizations providing technical assistance. So when you learn about a new service you want to provide citizens through your organization you also find there are significant challenges to success, from varying co-worker interest to budgets.  It isn’t about the data or the opportunities, there are expectations of stakeholders and diminishing capacity to meet those expectations.   It can all feel insurmountable. Do you first try to change the culture of your group and or do you jump in with other means to convince others of your idea? Speed matters, of course, as does coming up with funding but depth of collaboration, or the lack of it, is the deal breaker. Ultimately it isn’t about you or you putting yourself into a leader position, even if you have put forward the idea—it is about the team.  The new leaders are teams of reliable and diverse individuals.  But they don’t just happen without effort.  According to these authors, the mindset of Collaborative Intelligence is attention, focusing on the assets of the people with whom you work and listening to them carefully to sift through the very best of what is possible but everybody has to do this as well. Easier said than done. If your organization’s culture is changing too slowly to get a good new idea in motion, a bottom-up web of strong interpersonal connections and organizational infrastructure can move the needle sufficiently. But that web needs to be aware of each individual in pretty sophisticated ways. One way to have some understanding is to create a Team Map, similar to any asset mapping. But then employees come and go, no agency has permanence: How can operations be more nimble and durable than anything that has been tried before? The authors provide informal short cuts in the work place which would be invaluable in the short term thinking, electoral-driven processes we must navigate. This is an important and thoughtful contribution to internalizing innovation and disruptive change in such a way that people are empowered to be inspired to act both autonomously and collaboratively and be better able to deliver services required by our times.
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The Local Economy Solution:  How Innovative, Self Financing Pollinator Enterprises can Grow Jobs and Prosperity

Michael H. Shuman

Shuman is one of our best articulators of the changing dynamic systems of economic development and his activities and books have greatly furthered the success of local economic activities around the world.  Some Washington communities have benefited from his informed and entertaining presentations and his contributions surface everywhere. (check out Peter Quinn’s interview in this month’s issue)   If our economic development organizations have any self-reflection capabilities, the material he is presenting in this book should spark fantastic heated discussions.  If this book sinks out of sight without a ripple, that too sends a message, albeit a disheartening one.  Shuman is making a case for the changing of virtually all conventional thinking in economic development and illustrates his pronouncements with stories from hard working folks from all over that testify to the worthiness of his premises.  He also brings in luminary writers and thinkers to bolster his stance, including Jane Jacobs, E.O Wilson, E.F. Schumacher and even Frank Underwood from “House of Cards”, to name a few.  Maury Forman won’t let me go on and on in these reviews–something about space– so I am going to have to cut things to the quick:  my favorite take-aways include his nomenclature for the new wave of people making a real difference which he calls “pollinators”; his dismissal of conventional recruitment as “pure alchemy”; using the term DNA as a metaphor for the often ignored uniqueness of each and every small business; how our work could learn from modern improvements in health (not kidding—it’s about knowing the indicators); and how the proof is irrevocably in that collaboration solves the problems of economies of scale:  big can be better, but collaboration can beat big.   I also am chasing 20 things on the web thanks to things he mentioned.  Co’mon, let’s get together and hash out this terrific book as soon as we can.  This book will change the way you think and act in making your communities sustainable in a more ethical strategy.
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Fail Fast or Win Big: The Startup Plan for Starting Now

Bernhard Schroder

Great sign of a book:  You want to keep reading.  And it is written so you can put it down, lose your place and start off again anywhere you want and not feel lost.  Sort of resembles life that way.  Are there new ideas under the sun?  Actually, there are, and this author is laying them out for you:  How to choose your right kind of risk and what kinds of failure aren’t fatal to your goals.  His emphasis on speed cannot be minimized and if you need any more proof than what is in this book, maybe you just should, you know, choose another line of work.   He also makes some points about entrepreneur mindset that is fresh and enlivening:  become whatever you want to be.  He thinks nobody is born anything.  That’s worth thinking about.  His acceptance and encouragement about crowd funding is unusual in such a book, revealing that this form of raising capital has moved into the mainstream.  Also his repeated proposals, in different forms, about speed, lean production, rapid prototyping and going directly to the customer.   If you have a really cool idea, trust your deepest fear:  a lot of people are working just as hard as you are to win the race.   Lose the fear and recover your confidence and keep moving as fast as you can.  This kind of thinking may have been left on the far edge of business planning and more conservative counsel for a long time.  It may have been dismissed as too zealous of an activity, although anybody not living under a rock should have known better.  Line up your check list, be thoughtful, sense where you can fail and rely on yourself and trusted associates.  Race car winner Mario Andretti said it decades ago when business was almost just chugging along compared to now:  “If you think you are in control you aren’t going fast enough.”  More true than ever, Mario.
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Warning!  Toxic Business Mistakes:  How You can Avoid Making Them

Gil N. Schwartzberg

This is mentoring-style literature and our culture needs more of it.  As such, it is a witty first person narrative with drama, failure and success told bluntly as if from across a table in a cafe.  Any smart person working on a start-up has a long list of things that need to be done but are usually lacking a list of what not to do.  Nobody knows what not to do unless they either unfortunately do it, which can be damaging and expensive, or first ask somebody trustworthy who has been there what he or she thinks about it.  Here is a book that tells you what not to do.  Who can tell us what not to do?  Somebody who has done it, survived, learned from it and tells the tale.  Will Rogers told America during the Depression: “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”  And this author begins his book with the fundamental truth of the entrepreneurial mind set:  Know Thyself.  He follows with the importance of perseverance.  In many ways this is all one needs to apply walking away with from a two or three day seminar.  But of course potential mistakes await anybody making decisions about investments of their time and money so the book continues on with personal stories about specific mishaps and recoveries in the trenches.  The author drops poetry and even a few lines from the I Ching, making this a DIY kind of book that must cause inscrutable economists and high paid consultants to worry:  Because there are two basic kinds of teaching, pedagogy, where the concern is with transmitting the content, and andragogy, where the concern is with facilitating the acquisition of the content.  Adult learning is most effective when concerned with solving problems that have relevance to the learner’s everyday experience.  This book has the quality of a compelling conversation reaching out to help you solve problems.   Who knows, this kind of personal writing style could even end up in live theatre someday.
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The Reputation Economy

Michael Fertik

It’s a transparent world and we are all just working in it. Consider the idea of the commercialization of reputation. Your reputation capital. Metrics of reputation. Big Data, Big Analysis. That picture you put up on Facebook of midnight on Main Street. Let’s think about all that for a moment in the context of how we, and our clients we serve who are starting up businesses or expanding and trying to hire the best and brightest are perceived in our real and virtual communities. Our cloud-based reputations precede us in the “human capital allocation market” that is run by algorithms. There are good reputations justifiably earned and regretfully lost by entire regions as well; site selectors use the no-nonsense of algorithms to get a value-free snapshot of a potential location for a business. Nothing is left out, nothing is forgotten. In 1951 William Faulkner famously said, “The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.” That is true more than ever. Is there an upside to the inevitability of the Reputation Economy? Of course: knowing the granular details of reality is a good thing. Add experienced judgment skills and the outcome is usually correct, the future a little less uncertain.

The author describes proactive ways to manage your reputation; what used to be called “damage control” in public relations now should start early and stay in constant play due to hackers, occasional ill will and weirdness. Innovators and early adopters can get an advantage in such an environment, with a few missteps along the way since only robots are infallible. The “signals” that data can report to somebody prospecting you can be maximized if you develop and then demonstrate solid relationship building skills when the real encounter takes place. And you had better develop all of those skills you can because our work depends upon them just as much as data. We all have a past of the good, bad and ugly. Believe it that a drone, virtual or directly overhead, is checking out you and your town right now. It’s a transparent world and we are all just working in it. Consider the idea of the commercialization of reputation. Your reputation capital. Metrics of reputation. Big Data, Big Analysis. That picture you put up on Facebook of midnight on Main Street. Let’s think about all that for a moment in the context of how we, and our clients we serve who are starting up businesses or expanding and trying to hire the best and brightest are perceived in our real and virtual communities. Our cloud-based reputations precede us in the “human capital allocation market” that is run by algorithms. There are good reputations justifiably earned and regretfully lost by entire regions as well; site selectors use the no-nonsense of algorithms to get a value-free snapshot of a potential location for a business. Nothing is left out, nothing is forgotten. In 1951 William Faulkner famously said, “The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.” That is true more than ever. Is there an upside to the inevitability of the Reputation Economy? Of course: knowing the granular details of reality is a good thing. Add experienced judgment skills and the outcome is usually correct, the future a little less uncertain. The author describes proactive ways to manage your reputation; what used to be called “damage control” in public relations now should start early and stay in constant play due to hackers, occasional ill will and weirdness. Innovators and early adopters can get an advantage in such an environment, with a few missteps along the way since only robots are infallible. The “signals” that data can report to somebody prospecting you can be maximized if you develop and then demonstrate solid relationship building skills when the real encounter takes place. And you had better develop all of those skills you can because our work depends upon them just as much as data. We all have a past of the good, bad and ugly. Believe it that a drone, virtual or directly overhead, is checking out you and your town right now.

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Start Up Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City

Brad Field

An essential guide to building supportive entrepreneurial communities “startup communities” are popping up everywhere, from cities like Boulder to Boston and even in countries such as Iceland. These types of entrepreneurial ecosystems are driving innovation and small business energy. Startup Communities documents the buzz, strategy, long-term perspective and dynamics of building communities of entrepreneurs who can feed off of each other’s talent, creativity and support.

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Energizing Entrepreneurial Communities: A Pathway to Prosperity 

When the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship was founded more than 15 years ago, the field of entrepreneur-focused economic development was relatively new. Now entrepreneurship has grown into an accepted economic development strategy. The Center, through its e2 or Energizing Entrepreneurs resources, has been at the heart of this movement. The Center has now published a new book, Energizing Entrepreneurial Communities: A Pathway to Prosperity that is full of resources and tools to help communities of all sizes create a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurs to increase community impact. If you’ve never invested in economic development, this book will help you find a compelling argument for why you must take control of your community’s economic future and provides concrete ideas for moving ahead. If you are looking for alternatives to conventional economic development, you’ll find inspiration in a framework that will help you expand your economic development toolkit. And, if you are already doing entrepreneur-focused economic development with limited success, you’ll find a strategic edge in a more robust, systems approach that will ultimately achieve greater impacts.

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Capital in the Twenty First Century

Thomas Piketty

Capital in the Twenty First Century is not only the definitive account of the historical evolution of inequality in advanced economies, it is also a magisterial treatise on capitalism’s inherent dynamics. Economic developers talk a lot about access to capital.  It seems pretty straightforward:  Startup companies need financial assistance to take on the expenses and usual lack of sufficient cash flow to survive.  An undercapitalized business has a very tough time and often can’t hold on long enough.  Find more capital.  Simple, right? So you say you understand capital. What if you heard that nobody understands capital? And a detailed examination of 300 years has proven nobody has ever really understood what it is or what it does.  Not many of us working economic development professionals are academics or have aspirations to be such, but even a cursory read of this 700 page data-driven book will forever open your mind to a dozen hotly debated issues taking place all over the world and why they are happening right now and what may be the outcomes.

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The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods

John McKnight and Peter Block

There is a growing movement of people with a different vision for their local communities. They know that real satisfaction and the good life are not provided by organizations, institutions, or systems. No number of great CEO’s, central offices, or long range plans produce what a community can produce. The Abundant Community, by John McKnight and Peter Blocks, is still the bible for what makes communities sustainable. It is about a new possibility for us together to discover the real basis for a satisfying life. It is a life that becomes possible when we join our neighbors in creating a community that nurtures our family and makes us useful citizens. Each neighborhood has people with gifts and talents needed to provide for our prosperity and peace of mind — this book offers practical ways to discover them.

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The Organic Entrepreneur Economy: The Entrepreneur and Community
Infrastructures that Fix and Grow Economies…Immediately

Seth Meinzen, Steve Meinzen, and Barry Crocker

Entrepreneurs are sprouting new ventures everywhere, but only a few cities and regions are able to attract high concentrations of these economic accelerators. Is it random chance, or is there a science to building a strong economy? There are experienced experts with theories and suggestive methodologies, but it turns out the proven method still uses infrastructures. The Organic Entrepreneur Economy depicts how little known “social” and “community” infrastructures are the key to fostering entrepreneurship and creating fast-paced economic growth.

The book details how to leverage a city or region’s community of people to foster and accelerate the entrepreneurial potential in their city or region. There is no magic behind the infrastructures; rather the authors depict how human behavior has led community after community to succeed. Best of all, it does not require massive infusions of governmental or philanthropic funds; just the commitment to make it happen. The Organic Entrepreneur Economy promises readers a thought-provoking experience that, if implemented, will lead to immediate and lasting economic results.

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Engaging Small Businesses in Disaster Preparedness

The International Economic Development Council is proud to release the user-friendly guide, “Engaging Small Businesses in Disaster Preparedness: Practical Tips and Guidance for Community & Business Organizations”. Funded through a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), the guide is designed to provide practical advice in how to encourage small to midsized businesses to better prepare for a future crisis.

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Sustainable Communities
Creating a Durable Local Economy

Rhonda Phillips, Bruce Seifer, Ed Antczak

What is a durable economy? It is one that not only survives but thrives. How is it created, and what does it take to sustain over time? Sustainable Communities provides insight and answers to these questions. Citing Burlington, Vermont’s remarkable rise to award-winning status, Rhonda Phillips, a former instructor at the NW Economic Development course , and her colleagues explore the balance of community planning, social enterprise development, energy and environment, food systems and cultural well-being. Aimed at policymakers, development practitioners, students, and citizens, this book describes which and how multiple influences facilitate the creation of a local, durable and truly sustainable economy. Read editorial reviews.

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Thirty Tomorrows: The Next Three Decades of Globalization, Demographics, And How We Will Live

Milton Ezrati

No matter what your age you will find you are represented in this insightful book. This author provides an emphasis on demographics and the impacts of aging populations around the developed world—and the younger populations in developing countries—that should be brought home for serious consideration by all economic developers and any business person engaged in trade. As we all know, Washington state is very trade dependent and the policies we support and implement regarding globalization will determine how we choose to differentiate economic activities.  We also are jettisoning highly skilled older baby boomers into retirement. Daily headlines remind us that political leadership and informed maneuvering by global operations is required for continued prosperity and developed economies will need to increase their emphasis on research, innovation, training, and education. There is no guarantee of success—witness the shocking reversals of fortune throughout Asia and Europe and the disruptive challenges of immigration—but long term planning is essential. The author refers to a statement by General Dwight Eisenhower on the eve of the D-Day invasion that the plan was “useless” but the planning was “indispensable.”  The paradox is that the global economy must be managed and that it is, by any measure of a competitive marketplace, unmanageable.  There are numerous implications for our state’s diverse integrated economies in urban and rural locations utilizing digital, robotic and labor-intensive resource based industries. Well-intentioned goals of self-sufficiency and sustainability will always be vulnerable to distant market tensions and the ability of a nation to produce goods.  This book reminds us that demographics, a variable often overlooked in reviewing our options, may indeed be destiny.

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The Creative Community Builder’s Handbook

Tom Borrop

Art and culture can be powerful catalysts for downtown revitalization.  Let The Creative Community Builder’s Handbook provide the strategies, best practices and step-by-step guidance you need to put the power of arts and culture to work in your community. This practical handbook begins with a review of the ideas and research behind culturally driven community development. It explains key principles that underlie this work and that will help you argue the case for creative community building.

Next, it provides 10 concrete strategies for community revitalization. Each approach is illustrated by two case studies from a variety of cities and towns across the United States. The range of examples provides a menu of things that are possible to bring significant change to your community. These include examples of cultural tourism, artists live/work zones, diversifying the economy, activating public spaces, cultural celebrations and festivals, developing civic pride, and more. The examples are followed by a step-by-step guide to assessing, planning, and implementing these types of projects. The final chapter includes important tips for securing the funding, public policy support, and media coverage needed to make these projects a success.

By understanding the research, learning from the case studies, and following the action steps, you will be able to make positive arts and culture based change in your community.

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Local Dollars, Local Sense  How to Shift Your Money from
Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity

Michael Shuman

I have heard Maury Forman talk about this book many times in his presentations and describing it as the radical yet simple was to save rural economies.  So I “borrowed” this book from his book shelf wanting to challenge how something could be a radical change and simple at the same time.

Michael Shuman is now one of my favorite authors but its not so simple as Maury proclaims.  How does one become a “Local Sapien” and feel confident about one’s decisions to pursue re-localization?  This book provides an excellent map for that decidedly “not simple” journey.  Few economic development professionals are unaware of the popularity of shopping and investing locally but we have to acknowledge that such behavior runs counter to well-funded marketing and conventional thinking.  There are financial risks to everything we do with our precious time and hard earned money but reading this well researched and enthusiastic book is crucial to a better understanding about how money really flows through local and global businesses, banks and the labyrinth of financial instruments.  There exists amazing tools to assist local businesses and investors but you do have to dig a bit to find them as well as reject other popular but increasingly ineffective ones.

Numerous Washington state organizations are well represented and celebrated in this book for their successes: talented assistance is everywhere around us.  There are legal obstacles and challenges to finding local capital and keeping it in one’s community but it is routinely done every day around the country, down back roads in small towns, usually with great results.  My favorite message from this book is the reminder to invest in oneself.  This touches the heart of the rising entrepreneurial wave.  You can become your best asset by investing in you.  But this is not simply a book about how to enable you to get a start-up going.  It wants you to think about, and discuss with friends and family, what price and value mean to you.  Then look around your town.  What does your home mean to you?  How do you want to participate in the great ongoing civic experiment of building strong, resilient prosperous communities?  Another great reminder from this book is one doesn’t have to change all that much to profoundly begin to change the world. It’s that simple!!

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Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local and Helped Save An American Town

Beth Macy

The Impulse Society

Paul Roberts

Two titles, two stories, two approaches to the same issues. Economic development professionals may prefer Factory Man on the heroic achievements of a local businessman in Virginia—the story is well told and riveting and, for many of us, familiar. However, The Impulse Society provides a box of tools to better understand exactly why things are the way they are and provides a glimpse—not easy solutions—of ideas that could help.  It is truly heroic to save a manufacturing business and stabilize the fabric of a small town and is a story deserving to be told, but how have we come to such a plight? As usual, there are no mysteries, Sherlock Holmes tells us: ‘Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.’ Bassett Furniture Company of Galax, Virginia, did it the hard way, treating ‘Made in America’ not as a slogan but as a credo and working far beyond risks and exhaustion. Most of us would have withered at such a challenge. The reasons for much of our faint heartedness is explained in the second book: Immediate self-gratification in America has been elevated to both a science and a religion and touches every decision we make, from consumption to voting. We all fall victim to this. How can intermediate institutions and small towns and the local businesses in them survive such imbedded self-centered values? If the complex quest for community and locally based economic development and all that it implies has been diminished and, in some places, eliminated, what is to be done? Return to the first book and the story told there and find excellent reasons for optimism. They do exist!

Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local and Helped Save An American Town

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The Impulse Society

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Spare Parts Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream

Joshua Davis

When a book simultaneously gets made into a movie one assumes it provides a compelling story of our times with the usual suspects of action, espionage and thrills.  This story, however, is about the kinds of things that make up some of pieces of a work day of an economic development professional.  Surprised, eh?  As surprising and equally important, it is also excellent reporting of the problems our society faces of what remains of the American Dream.  The youth described in this book are some of the struggling individuals who are less and less served by all of the assistance tax dollars provide in education and technical guidance for business success.  Yet they possess all of the entrepreneurial drive and problem-solving skills of any of our best students.  There are some heroes and there is some creative fund raising which tips the balance in favor of these young men but there are some shocking revelations of how laws and cultural trends are shaping and distorting opportunities.  One big takeaway of this story is to reconsider what the most gratifying parts of your day are as you move about trying to help people achieve their goals in developing products and services and creating and sustaining businesses.  And then, if and when you have a free moment to catch your breath and reflect for a moment, reflect on what else you might be able to do to best help revive the American Dream.

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