Siloam Springs Herald Leader

It takes an army


The award-winning and renowned author Malcolm Gladwell once said, “Transforma­tion isn’t about improving, it is about rethinking.” 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 rethink 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 p.m., 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 they can truly realize their full potential.

How do we build excitement, energy and buy-in? This is a question eluding 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, of Pineville, Mo., is a nationally recognized publisher, community, business and media consultant, and speaker. He authors “Building Main Street, not Wall Street,” a column appearing in 50 communitie­s. The founder of Truly-Local, dedicated to assisting communitie­s create excitement, energy, and combining synergies with local media to become more vibrant and competitiv­e. His email is: The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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