Community & Capitalization
What is it that converts opportunity into achievement? This week at DocType Society, I overheard a conversation between Doug Waltman, Phillip Brothers, and a few others wondering how long until the development community in Tri-Cities receives some national recognition. Intuitively, we each know community building is creating value and working toward that goal, but we couldn't directly articulate why. That had thinking of this societal conundrums and Kenyans.
Why are Kenyans good runners? When competing against larger countries, why do they win so often? Answering such a question is frought with racial stereotypes and pseudo-science, but the explanation I like best is more sociological. As recapped by Malcolm Gladwell, the Kenyan "secret" boils down to a culture that excels at inspiring people to run and cultivating people who run, rather an innate advantage. It's an elegant answer: more people trying to achieve a goal means more achievers.
For anyone waiting for us to blossom into the mid-columbia silicon valley, we need to focus on getting everyone we can to build their big ideas. Since we can't compete on size, we have to compete on the Kenyan effect, known more formally as "capitalization", building success from focus rather than scale.
What improves capitalization? Education is the most obvious. Opening Delta High School is probably the single biggest attempt by the local government to bolster local achivement in the tech sector. I greatly admire their initiative and think it will have a big impact; it makes me proud to be a Tri-Citizen. For people past school age, returning to college is a good idea, but it does have financial barriers.
DocType Society and Room2Think are very efficient options. Like formal education, they broaden and deepen the participant's knowledge through sharing, except in this case using the unorthodox metholody of peer-to-peer. Beyond that, they offer role-models and success stories, from Franco's Exam Refresh to Digital Augment's Crumblin, that fuel aspiration and offer real-world insight.
Tri-Cities has a little in common with Kenya. They also get a lot of sun and most Americans would struggle to find us on a map. We're small places, competing against the world. We don't have every opportunity, but if we turned every opportunity we had into achievement, we'd be unstoppable.