Ross Mayfield and Chris Anderson both continue the discussion from my post yesterday spawned by John Hagel's flat/spiky article. Ross discusses flattening technologies and the "Frothy" Market. Chris discusses how looking for spikes may show concentrations of innovation, but does not show all innovation.
This reminds me of a story.
There is a Dead Kennedys song that says "There is no punk rock in Nebraska". My friend Kathy Lou took issue with this and wrote Jello Biafra and told him, "Look, if you think it's hard being a punk rocker in LA, you should try it in Kearney, Nebraska."
Jello wrote back and apologized.
But the real point was that we were the member of a community even though the community wasn't concentrated where we were. We were able to have our own shows, cut our own hair, etc. But when you list the places of punk rockdom, Grand Island and Kearney don't make the cut.
Ed Vielmetti wrote in a comment to my previous post:
Humans like to hang out with other humans, that's very much in our primate nature.
Proximity is a killer app. You would be interested in what the Internet2 folks are doing with full immersion video walls - you might not be close enough to share coffee, but you can see enough of what the other person is doing to get more of a visceral sense of what is going on than the typical grainy tv-quality display.
This shows that there are surrogates to proximity but acknowledges that connection with your community is important. For the punk rock years, this was done through 'zines. Everyone had small magazines that they produced on their own. When they got digital, they became blogs. So our Grand Island community had people who read about what we were doing and feeling and replying to that from around the world. Even before the Internet we were not alone.
Ed also said something of vital importance here:
As a resident of one of those spiky cities - and one that regularly sees promising tech companies get bundled up an moved elsewhere when they prove promising - I see both sides of what is going on.
Ed lives in Ann Arbor, which is attached to a recurring center of innovation, Detroit. For three quarters of the 20th century, Detroit was a hub of industrial and artistic innovation. It was a bastion of opportunity. I don't even need a link to tell you what the common perceptions of Detroit is today.
In his post, Chris mentions the most important part of this discussion:
In a previous life, I briefly built a videogame software company based around a microcluster of talented programmers based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. They lived there because it offered a concentration, to use Florida's term, of the quality-of-life factors that they cared about, from family to culture. Once, that would have come at the cost of their careers. But thanks to the Internet, they're now able to live in Friedman's Flat World, collaborating and competing with other programmers around the world. And there are hundreds of thousands of other talents like them, scattered to the four corners of the globe. They don't figure on Florida's map, but any one of them can have an impact.
If you set your viewing scale to hits, that's all you'll see. But the real surprises are just as likely to come from below, in the noise below the spikes. I can't find Tallinn, Estonia amongst Florida's beautifully mapped peaks, but that didn't stop some smart people there from changing the world not once, but twice.
Quality of Life. Quality can grow from concentrations and willfully moving to locations where you can be with people who help you explore your potential. Quality can also grow from not doing those things. Quality of Life ultimately rests in having the freedom to live where you want and do what you want.
So creative people congregating all in the same place may not actually be the most creative solution to the problem. Creative people can figure out way to live authentically in locations that make them happy. As I said in the previous post, I fly down to the Bay Area every so often just for the conversations. But I know I can get my best work done here.