Friday, November 21st, 2008
Is there something in the water in Louisville? For some reason, it continues to attract a core group of innovators and creators who operate at the absolute highest level in the world.
One of the things this has produced for the city is the IdeaFestival, a major international event attracting top international talent across a wide range of disciplines. To keep the excitement going year around, they publish an IdeaFestival blog. A recent article included a video featuring Kris Kimel, who founded the festival. This guy shows in about two and a half minutes exactly the way that cities need to be thinking in order to thrive in the 21st century economy. Among his points:
- He wanted the IdeaFestival to be the “preemient event in the world for convergent innovation”, covering the intersection of science, business, the arts, design, and philosophy.
- He wanted to use it as a vehicle to extend the brand of Kentucky and Louisville into the innovation space. His vision was that when people on the streets in LA, Paris, or Banaglore ran into each other and asked “Are you going to be in Louisville this fall?” they’d associate it with the IdeaFestival. That the conference would have a brand recognition in its space similar to Sundance in film.
The IdeaFestival has gone a long way towards achieving that vision, though I don’t know how much it has really changed the city’s brand image. That takes more than a conference. It takes output. That’s one reason I’m so sad to see Museum Plaza dead. But that sort of change is a longer term game.
What does this illustrate? A couple things. Firstly, you never achieve great things unless you aspire to achieve great things. Setting a lofty objective like “being the preeminent event in the world” can inspire and motivate people in a way that mediocrity never will. Just putting on another ho-hum conference wouldn’t have amounted to anything. Also, Kimel didn’t spend his time saying, “Gosh, I wonder if lil’ ol’ Louisville can do something like this.” Rather, he said, why not us?
Successful cities out there in the US and the world have a healthy amour-propre. It takes a certain degree of self-regard to muster the will to compete in the world. The Midwest has long been an understated, modest sort of place. That has its charms, but the whole “nail that sticks up gets pounded back down” routine is not good enough anymore to make it in the 21st century. The IdeaFestival shows that when smaller Midwestern or Southern cities decide they want to compete out there in the 21st century realm of ideas, they can actually do it and be successful. This is an example for other cities and other innovators to emulate.
You can watch the full video here: