Music engine in brain is playing Pink Floyd on endless loop:
When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse,
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone.
I cannot put my finger on it now.
The child is grown, the dream is gone.
I've written before on the role of epiphany in management. How groups coalesce around an activity, goal, or vision. How people as individuals suddenly become a focused group.
What we also see, is how people almost get it. They catch a fleeting glimpse of that coalescence and then lose it. Something doesn't quite gel.
Yesterday, in the late afternoon, my friend Sean Liu landed in San Francisco. Sean is Seattle raised, living in Beijing, but still has a place in Palo Alto. For about a week, he was in Seattle.
He sent me a text upon landing:
I can feel the energy down here
What he was feeling was the group - the energy of focus. In this case, the focus of the Bay Area. Weeks before, Sean and I noticed very different but very noticeable energy in Shanghai.
When that energy is there, it enlivens you.
Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat is often misinterpreted to mean that no specialization or no willful segregation takes place. It obviously does. The world now is flattened in interesting ways: industry can open anywhere, outsourcing is commonplace, specialization is key to a focused business, niche markets are vital.
However, niche markets rely on the shared energy of an industry. Companies today that focus on products without participating in their professional communities are quickly isolated and deemed irrelevant. Money is made, business are successful because of the energy of focus. What made John Hagel say the World was "spiky".
Silicon Valley has its energy because of its focus. The focus of gathering. An enduring epiphany, or perhaps a set of rolling epiphanies that are shared and keep the energy of the area alive. Other books, like Frans Johansson's Medici Effect, cover this phenomenon. People gather in places to exchange not only goods and services, but also ideas and inspiration.
When this energy subsides or is squelched, that is when one becomes Comfortably Numb. That is when the energy doesn't move you. It's when you watch activity from the corner of your eye, rather then relishing it.
A challenge for Friedman's flat world, is to keep the flatness as meaning "few geological or social barriers", as in a flat driving surface where ideas flow and not flat as in flat soda or a flat tire.