As your organization or community looks to recruit and retain talent, evolve with and for the millennial generation, and reorganize around a new vision of success for the radical changes in our world and economy, it will behoove you to think of yourself as a Florence in the New Renaissance.

It’s important to understand that the slow-down of economy in our world is not global recession, but a paradigm shift on the grandest stage of the human experience. And each of us, each community, is struggling to be successful in this new economy, but we just don’t seem to know how.

The Macro Perspective

Three Revolutions

I believe that we are currently experiencing the third revolution of the story of the human race. First was the Agricultural Revolution. This allowed us to stop chasing our food and stay in one place, thus the birth of the village, the town, the city – and with it, the birth of civilization. Civilization prospered and spread for thousands of years (and is still doing so).

Next, was the Industrial Revolution that began with the Western World coming out of the dark ages and into the age of coordinated global production. This era started (to generalize) with the Italian Renaissance, and has carried us into the modern era. We compartmentalized our societies. We came to understand ourselves, our organizations, and our communities as mechanical in nature and each a cog among the wheels of the giant global machine.

Here we are today at the third such revolution. I call it the Connectivity Revolution. While we are more connected globally than ever, we are also in a renaissance of local discovery and trade. Local and Global are happening at the same time. We are increasingly each citizens of the world and citizens of our local community, more than we are citizens of a state or nation. Our cities are exploding with the creative class, similar to Renaissance Florence.

Understanding this grand change is the key to success in the new economy for both communities and organizations.


There’s no way to overstate the impacts of the Connectivity Revolution. For example, there are three billion smartphones on the planet. Just consider what that means. Half the world’s population has access to all catalogued human knowledge with a device that we carry in our pockets. We each have access to each other – point-to-point connectivity with three billion individual human beings across the globe. We each have the ability to publish information, as well, to that entire audience at the touch of a finger. Consider that only two decades ago there were about five corporations that owned and controlled almost all media publishing in the developed world. Not today. Not anymore.

This level of connectivity is unprecedented in the human experience, and it’s ubiquitous among us, so much so that we don’t even notice it anymore. In fact, there is already an entire generation of people functioning in our world who have never known a world without this level of connectivity. Again, there is no way to overstate the impact this has on people, business, and community.

Each a Florence

The parallels of today to the beginnings of the previous revolution (the Renaissance) are many – rapid decentralization, explosive innovation, and a new middle class of creative entrepreneurs. Understanding these three aspects alone will lead to greater success for your community or organization. Exploring this parallel is a healthy place to look for success. So the question is, why is Florence, Italy, the posterchild of the Renaissance. What made them this center of revolution and success?

While Italy was in the center of the trade world, Florence was not the natural center of this. Venice is the more likely candidate, due to its location. And Venice did quite well with trade. They became very rich. Florence, though, is inland and accessible by river. Yes, many people would pass by, but Florence could have simply sold them food and prostitutes and called it a day. How did they become the center of a world revolution?

Well, Florence dedicated itself to becoming the place to be. They invested in placemaking. They invested in art and innovation. They didn’t have much raw materials to speak of, instead they invested in people – the most creative and innovative people of the day. The created a robust village and an explosion of the creative class. They focused on apprenticeships and patronage and knowledge work (like process and invention). The best and the brightest wanted to be in Florence. There was opportunity there, culture, vibrancy. That’s what made Florence the center of a new explosion of the middle class and a new world economy – the same economy that the United States would come to lead and dominate through the latter half of the 20th century.

But as the Industrial Revolution comes to an end, who will be the next Florence of the new renaissance? I believe it can be every community, not one community. Each of us can invest in placemaking and innovation and cultural vibrancy. Each of us can recruit and retain the talent that will fuel the next 700 years of the human story.

What To Do About It

The first step in the type of large and fundamental change that I describe here, and the most powerful and meaningful achievement of leadership, is to develop a shared vision. To do this, you need input and iteration. You must get the leaders of your community or organization together to hear their voices. You must be sure those leaders represent well the population of your community or organization. And you must dream together, explore together, research together, and iterate a vision of what could be.

You must get people out of their working silos and bring them together. I call it Silos to Synergy. Usually, when I am invited by a community or organization to come and speak and consult, that is what’s going on. They want me to speak on these topics to a gathering of leaders to start to get everyone to see the same world, the same challenges, the same opportunities, and a clearer picture of what success looks like.

After you have peaked the interest of leaders and gotten everyone to agree that a clearer singular vision is needed for success, then you can walk through a facilitated process.

As a consultant, I usually run the process as described below.

A 10-step process for consultant-led vision development:

  1. A closed door meeting with the working team
  2. Collection of any info/materials
  3. A closed door meeting with the leadership group
  4. An open meeting with leadership group and community
  5. Development of a draft vision and strategy
  6. A closed door working session to go through draft for feedback
  7. An open meeting for introducing strategy/vision to public and getting feedback
  8. Revision of document (vision/strategy)
  9. Presentation of final document (will always be a working document)
  10. Recommendations of further actions based on strategy/vision

I do this work with both communities and organizations. Either way, we are looking at a changing world and the recruiting and retaining of talent for the purposes of healthy, sustainable growth.

We usually move next into thinking about how we will use the Internet to achieve our goals, as the Internet is at the core of the Connectivity Revolution. Why? Well… because communication is everything to social beings, and the Internet has radically changed how we communicate.

Let me know if I can help you and your community or organization develop of clearer vision, create a powerful strategy, and implement the use of the Internet — all for success in the new economy. Happy and eager to help!