Innovative Thoughts from Aaron Renn

“We don’t have a seed problem, we have a soil problem.” – Aaron Renn

Phew! I have been super busy with lots of researching and not enough reporting. I am currently working on a few projects to eventually post more resources, but today’s post will just be to share some insight to other planners and community developers/engagers out there. This past week I watched a video that featured Aaron Renn, speaking in Louisville, Kentucky at Governing Magazine’s Summit on Performance and Innovation. Here’s his video: The Evolving City.

Aaron Renn is an opinion-leading urban affairs analyst, entrepreneur, speaker and writer. After a 15-year career in management and IT consulting at Accenture, he created the urban planning website, The Urbanophile, and is also the founder and CEO of Telestrian, a data analysis platform that provides powerful data mining and visualization capabilities. Renn’s writings have also appeared in publications such as Forbes,The New York Times and City Journal. – Courtesy of

Basically, he’s awesome! I follow his posts on Urbanophile, and he has a great e-book recently published (I want to read it), “The Urban State of Mind”. His posts are always relevant and analytical, all with an honest, realist approach. If I could meet him I would- he’s my inspiration as a future planner and city policy analyst. I recommend checking out his site, along with Governing Magazine if you’re especially interested in policies and politics related to localities and states.

His talk is based on innovation and evolution of what innovation means in a city and for its people. Innovation is necessary for planners as well, and just how cities are changing, so do the planners and the systems that planners have to work within. How we as planners and city officials think of our cities determines a lot of how we’ll work in them, and sometimes we need to adjust our thoughts to be more inclusive or really hone in on just what makes a city (like a brand) and make whatever that is “work” for it. I took some notes from his video, and I hope you will watch (or at least listen to the video).

  • There’s a distinct difference between internal consultants versus external consultants. This usually is related to power and the tyrannical structure within a company/firm.
  • Consultants stand behind a veil of ignorance when it comes to their own status in their organization, which can affect how they present an idea depending on who they’re presenting it to.
  • “We don’t have a seed problem, we have a soil problem”. (Think about it. Often the ideas (seeds) people have are great, but whether they take off or not is usually dependent on the environment they’re brought to (soil).)
  • We need to create a culture of innovation all the way down to the beginning of the organization- even the higher ups need to be accountable, knowing that an idea came from that company, regardless of where it began.
  • Cultural Resonance: Honor the essence of the place, distill it down, then inject it into everything we do in that community.