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It Takes an Army

30 January 2023

The award-winning and renowned author, Malcolm Gladwell once said, “Transformation isn’t about improving, it is about re-thinking”. I might also contribute to this quote by adding that true community or business transformation is rarely brought about by evolution, but more often by revolution. I often hear the question, what does it take to re-think and spawn community or business transformation? Upon reviewing many successful transformational projects I and others have witnessed, the answer is found in three critical elements often overlooked. These elements are the power of building excitement, instilling energy, and knowing that it will take an army to see the transformation through.


Many communities expect change without having to change. They have a dilapidated downtown with empty buildings, and little in terms of regulation to create a vibrant downtown. Many local businesses shut down by 5:00PM forcing residents online or into national chains that offer expanded hours.  Oftentimes, innovation isn’t highly rewarded, and entrepreneurship is little and far between. Trash is abundant on the roadway leading to and within the city. The local media company provides little local substance and has vacated their leadership role while lacking energy. All these signs indicate a community without excitement, energy, and certainly without an army of help.


Let’s focus on common elements found in vibrant and progressive communities. I would suggest excitement, energy, and buy-in by the community precedes any effective transformation effort.  Why is excitement, energy and buy-in so important? Many communities seek new or relocating businesses, bringing new jobs to the community. These businesses are attracted to excitement, energy, and community buy-in. It is these businesses that help us retain the younger generations, who often leave after high school to other locations offering better educational and job opportunities that come with them.   


Excitement, energy, and community buy-in bring interest and investors. Investors bring revitalization and transformation. Revitalization and transformation bring higher quality of life. Higher quality of life brings new business and local jobs. New business and local jobs bring an increasing tax base. Increasing tax base brings better roads, infrastructure and community opportunity. All of this increases the overall vibrancy of the community, which in turn draws tourism and others wanting to be a part of the energy and excitement. One might call this the community circle of life. The bottom-line, excitement and energy are contagious; it is the foundation of what can be. Excitement, energy, and buy-in are what communities need to truly transform and revitalize.  Any efforts without these main ingredients are certain to wither and die before it can truly realize their full potential.


How do we build excitement, energy and buy-in?  This is a question alluding many communities leading to multiple   failed efforts. Once a community has experienced many false-starts or failed efforts, it becomes much more difficult to succeed as the “we’ve tried that before” and “idea poverty” mentality sets in.


Many communities have many great ideas, initiatives, and potential projects, all of which can be very transformative. They just lack the ability to pull it all together due to inflated personal egos, inadequate leadership, too many varied agendas and/or lack of trust due to the previous mentioned reasons.


Let’s look at some of those reasons. Inflated egos can be a huge detriment or a powerful tool. Michael Jordan had an inflated ego as do most great athletes. While that could have been bad, when harnessed and directed by a great coach, it was turned into a powerful force spurring six championships. Every organization has an agenda, that is what makes them great. Molding these agendas from various groups into a winning game-plan can be exciting. The best way to build trust is to be all-inclusive and let every voice be heard and every thought considered.


Excitement and energy are great, but let me briefly look at the third ingredient, that of community buy-in. I have often said that it takes an army to facilitate change. Successful communities harness the power of excitement and energy to enlist their army of support. Successful communities have found that the more residents they enlist, the faster and more efficient transformation can occur. As the saying goes, “many hands make light work”. This is surely true with building or transforming a community.


As you begin or continue your transformation journey, never forget the excitement, energy, and buy-in elements. All your efforts will fall short without enlisting and nourishing these critical components.


John Newby, from SW Missouri, is a nationally recognized Columnist, Speaker, & Publisher. He consults with Community, Business & Media. His “Building Main Street, not Wall Street,” column is read by 60+ communities around the country. As founder of Truly-Local, he assists communities, media and business leaders in building synergies that create vibrant communities. He can be reached at: John@Truly-Local.org.