It’s tempting to segment and isolate innovation, on one hand, from the drama of life, as evidenced in sports, the arts, business, and other fields of activity.
Tempting, but wrong. If you think of “intellectual property” as jars of gray matter on a shelf—that was the image that immediately came to my mind when I first heard the multi-syllable phrase some decades ago—you’re missing great flows of creative juices and human energy. (Not to dwell on the point, but “IP” is shorthand for an eight-syllable phrase!)
Research on great cities of the world will uncover their pride in being Innovation Cities, which an Australian organization called 2thinknow has endeavored to rank in lists. One could quibble about their methodology and their results, but their analysis and their lists are food for thought.
They contend that there are three factors that capture the innovation process. The three factors are:
Cultural Assets: Measurable sources of ideas (e.g. designers, art galleries, sports, museums, dance, nature);
Human Infrastructure: Soft and hard infrastructure to implement innovation (transport, universities, business, venture capital, office space, government, technology); and
Networked Markets: Basic conditions and connections for innovation (location, military, economies of related entities).
They contend, in short, that innovation moves from idea to implementation and then communication.
Based on a three-factor score, all cities are graded. From 1,500 cities, 500 are selected and sorted into five categories.
For a city to rank in the top category, NEXUS, it must be a “critical nexus” for “multiple economic” and “innovation segments.”
As a Chicagoan, I am pleased to see that my city is placed among the great cities of the world for innovation.
What makes a city a great place for innovation? In the case of Chicago, yes, it includes the 2016 World Series Champions, the Chicago Cubs, and the 2005 World Series Champions, the Chicago White Sox. It includes the Chicago Bulls, especially those of the Michael Jordan era, and the Chicago Bears, especially the 1985 Super Bowl Champions coached by former player Mike Ditka. The Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks provide plenty of energy—and that spurs innovation.
In culture, there is the Art Institute of Chicago, among several of the city’s world class museums, and there are blues joints, and Second City comedy. There’s the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Joffrey Ballet. There are architects in a long line from Burnham to Sullivan to Wright to van der Rohe and beyond.
For human infrastructure, there is O’Hare International Airport, and highways, and railroads. There are great universities. For science, well, the Manhattan Project was conducted here, and from here there were (and are) far-flung works in math, chemistry and physics. And Chicago has always been a great business city.
For networking, Chicago is the capital of the Midwest and, still, the Second City, deferring to New York as the Greatest. Lesser cities may consider themselves at the center of the world, but the Windy City has been deflated so many times as to be cured of self-aggrandizement. The odes of Carl Sandburg (hog butcher to the world), Nelson Algren (like a woman with a broken nose), and Studs Terkel (Division Street America) are as devoted to the common as to the noble features of the city. Speaking of places to become involved and connected, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the Union League Club of Chicago, of which I am a Director and Chair of the Library Committee, which includes Subcommittees for Archives and for Distinguished Writers.
Chicago sportswriters and journalists—from Ring Lardner, who covered the 1907 and 1908 Cubs World Series championships and served as a role model for Ernest Hemingway of Oak Park, Illinois—to Jack Brickhouse and Harey Carey—they saw and wrote and reported sports through a lens of creativity.
There is a place in innovation for math and lab work. But innovation also is more than pure science.
So, yes, Chicago is the home of the Cubs and a hotbed for innovation.