Why do cities die rather than change?

You’ve heard it before, “There aren’t any young people here.” “This place has no women.” “This town is so dead.” Perception is reality.

Why do 90% of us choose death over changing for a prolific future – socially and economically? In continuing the series that began yesterday, Change or Die, the answer is perhaps that the brains of city and business leaders have become physiologically incapable of change, unless…

Contrary to popular belief. neuroscience researchers like Dr. Michael Merzenich at UCSF, conclude that the brain’s plasticity, or ability to change, is lifelong. However, with highly trained specialists, their one-perspective mindsets actually show up on MRI scans – “They’ve distorted their brains”, as Merzenich says. Specialists are valuable for corporations and governments to execute key tasks, but it also makes it physiologically difficult, if not impossible to change.

Is there hope then? Brain fitness often begins declining at around age 30 for men, a bit later for women. Business leaders need “a business strategy for continuous mental rejuvenation and new learning,” Merzenich says. He suggests Posit Science’s fifth-day strategy, where everyone spends one day a week working in a different discipline and perspective, or zooming as we refer to it.

If not, you actually have a 50-50 chance of going senile, or an even greater likelihood of losing the job-creating population in your city. Change or lose the best and the brightest. Change or lose your mind.

Is your city dying or growing? Please comment below…

  • sm2

    The notion of the “brain drain” is quite familiar to those of us living in rural regions. This is an “intractable” problem, that has left the leaders of our rural sclerotic institutions scratching their heads for years. They appear to lack the awareness that they may be potentiating the very problem!

    What does leadership and organizational development look like in a vibrant creative economy? How do the public policy development processes need to differ for us to fulfill the potential of the creative economy? Let’s not forget the equity gap- inclusivity is imperative. Neil Scott Kleiman et al stated it very well in this most audacious statement in “The Creative Engine” for the Center of Urban Futures:

    “It is entirely possible that the existing range of business assistance and planning programs are capable of addressing virtually all the needs of cultural development. In order to ensure that the city responds in a coordinated, efficient and cost-effective manner however, we recommend assigning a high-level deputy commissioner as cultural liaison in each relevant city agency, including the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Economic Development Corporation, Department of Transportation, the Department of Business Services, and the Department of Employment. Department liaisons could also explore opportunities to better employ the talents of the city’s creative community. There are few city programs that couldn’t be enhanced by the inclusion of a creative component-from managing social services to the construction of public works projects.”

    By the way- Stay active- midlife weight gain has been related to dementia!