Something Special in St. Louis

There’s something special brewing in St. Louis, and it ain’t Budweiser. My side of the story begins in the Bay Area. We’ve got this special culture here in California. It’s a culture of openness, of collaboration, of entrepreneurship, and of tolerance. Combine that with a wonderfully diverse and intellectual community, and you get a tremendous amount of good vibes and innovation. The Bay Area is so wonderful, most of us don’t see any need to go anywhere else, and those who do often experience severe culture shock. Yes, Virginia, not everyone is like us Californians.    (LBJ)

In some ways, that’s a good thing, but in many ways, it’s sad. True, California is beautiful. True, the people here are brilliant and wonderful. But, there are brilliant and wonderful people who live outside of California, and there’s no reason why those folks can’t enjoy the same community vibe that we do out here. The Internet allows us to transcend geographical boundaries and form a virtual community with a similar vibe, but it still pales in comparison to the experience of being physical immersed in this type of environment. The barrier to this sort of vibe emerging in a geographical community is usually culture.    (LBK)

Is it possible to shift the culture of a community (or an organization) to be more collaborative, more tolerant, more innovative? Absolutely. It’s not easy, but it’s possible, and like all great things, it starts with great people, and it has to start small.    (LBL)

St. Louis has these ingredients as well as a growing consciousness about what is possible. The right people are there, and they are starting to discover each other. If this growing community fosters these opportunities, a wonderful prairie will emerge.    (LBM)

This past Wednesday, I did my part by co-facilitating the first gathering of the St. Louis Collaboratory, which was formed by Kellee Sikes and three of her colleagues (Mark Richman, Donna Mickens, and Valerie Hartman). (Pictures from the event.) The gathering was modeled after the “Tools for Catalyzing Collaboration” (TCC) workshops I co-organized with Jeff Shults earlier this year in San Francisco. Kellee attended our second workshop, and enjoyed it so much, she decided to try and bring a similar experience to her community in St. Louis.    (LBN)

https://i2.wp.com/static.flickr.com/92/273875599_bd3b84ff7d_m.jpg?w=700    (LBO)

Kellee, Mark, Donna, and Valerie recruited a fantastic and diverse group of participants. We had folks from both non- and for-profits, from large and small companies, from technology, health care, and organized labor. These people were thoughtful and open-minded. They came into the workshop with a healthy dose of skepticism, but also a willingness to play. What surprised me the most was that several of them had thought as deeply about collaboration as anyone else I’ve ever met.    (LBP)

I learned a tremendous amount listening to this group and watching them work. I could write 50 blog entries about the things I learned, stories I heard, and insights I gained. (I’ll be happy if I manage three.)    (LBQ)

At dinner later in the evening, I told several people that it would be a travesty if they did not continue engage with each other. You can do amazing things in a day. My goals were to expand their consciousness, to make them aware of each other, to start seeding Shared Language, and to give them an opportunity to experience a different kind of collaboration. We met these goals, but they barely scratch the surface of what’s possible.    (LBR)

The opportunity is there. Kellee and company are planning another workshop in January, and hopefully some of the participants from this week will play a more active role in designing the next event. Moreover, there are complementary events cropping up in St. Louis.    (LBS)

Through a serendipitous conversation with Jay Cross last month, I discovered Dave Gray, the founder of St. Louis-based XPLANE, which does visual modeling and facilitation. Dave introduced me to Matt Homann, a lawyer by trade who recently formed a company, LexThink, to organize more collaborative gatherings. Matt has been experimenting with a different kind of networking event in St. Louis known as Idea Markets, and the second one just happened to be this past Tuesday. It was an excellent event, and I’d encourage people from the area to go. This style of event is a dime a dozen in the Bay Area, but we rarely see the mix of people that Matt managed to draw.    (LBT)

https://i0.wp.com/static.flickr.com/91/273871891_6afb850afc_m.jpg?w=700    (LBU)

What’s different about St. Louis Collaboratory and events like Idea Markets is that they’re not about Drive-By Networking. They’re not about, “What can you do for me?” They’re about, “What can we do with each other?” That, my friends, is what collaboration is about. I’ll be watching these developments closely to see what emerges.    (LBV)

Yogi, Lewis and Clark

Had to put out a few fires this morning. Thank goodness for high-speed wireless and my trusty new iBook. As a sidenote, Apple Works is an absolute travesty. It is twelve steps backwards in the evolution of office applications. Can’t wait for OpenOffice to run natively on Panther.    (1YT)

Afterwards, I drove to The Hill for lunch at Amighetti’s, then walked down Elizabeth Street to see the stretch of road where Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola grew up. I love The Hill. Red brick houses line the streets, and there’s an Italian restaurant and bakery on every block. I could spend weeks here, just wandering the streets and eating.    (1YU)

My next stop was the Arch. Took the crazy tram to the top. Remember the egg from Mork and Mindy? The tram consists of eight of those, with five people crammed in each of them. There’s a tram on each side of the Arch, and they meet at the center. Takes about five minutes to the top.    (1YV)

The highlight of the Arch was the IMAX movie and exhibits on Lewis & Clark. I had to add a book on the two explorers to my always growing reading list.    (1YW)

Scott Foehner and I had dinner at Blueberry Hill, which Scott claims is the most well known restaurant in town. Near Washington University, it sports plenty of seating, good burgers, a wide beer selection, live music, kitschy trinkets, and the occasional St. Louis celebrity. Its longtime owner, Joe Edwards, has invested a lot in the area recently. Afterwards, we had a few beers and played some darts and pool at the Black Derby, an excellent little dive with good music in the south side of St. Louis.    (1YX)

Stopover in Bloomington

On my way from Fort Wright to St. Louis, I stopped over in Bloomington to have lunch with Chris Dent and some of his colleagues, Joe Blaylock, Kevin Bohan, and Matthew O’Connor. Matthew is one of The Canonical Hackers.    (1YQ)

Lunch conversation was good — spent two hours longer than I had planned. I especially enjoyed meeting Matthew, as well as Paul Visscher and Jason Cook a few nights earlier. You can gather a surprising amount from interacting with folks via email alone, but it’s still only a partial picture. It was good to finally meet these guys in person, and to get a sense of their personalities and passions.    (1YR)

Arrived at Scott Foehner‘s place in St. Louis at around 8:30pm. Had dinner on The Hill at an Italian restaurant called Via’s, then went to Milo’s, a neighborhood bar, for drinks. I was surprised to learn that folks in St. Louis brew beers other than Budweiser. Had a Schlafly’s there, which was very good.    (1YS)