Does the Future belong to Western Cities?

Urbanisation is a big trend and people are increasingly moving to larger and larger cities. Who would have thought, 2-3 decades ago, London with its lousy climate and bad food would be a magnet for the best and brightest. Here’s an article by Simon Kuper, provocatively called “The Future Belongs to Cities of the West”. After having lived in 4 countries, I observed that I identified more with these cities – Calcutta, Chicago, Lausanne, and London – rather than with any country. I think there is a generation, of admittedly elites, that will do so increasingly.

Once rich people move somewhere, then industries to meet their discerning tastes come around – art and food being the top two. For foodies, here is the annual list of 50 best restaurants. Great to see an Indian restaurant in the top 10. Last year, when in Santiago, Chile I ate at Borago – it was unique, interesting, and bizarre all at the same time. Set menu with 10+ courses. However, I am not sure I would return as it was too far out. In any case, Santiago has so many excellent restaurants and art galleries to choose from.

Perhaps cities need to change. The architecture in new cities can be quite intriguing, more experimental than older cities. Dubai and Shanghai (as old city torn down, counts as a new city) being two examples. Here is a story of a 3D printed office building being attempted in Dubai.

Another innovative story on infrastructure comes from Netherlands and the attempt to build a solar road.

Speaking of London, this video of Shashi Tharoor is spreading like wildfire on social media. Whatever else, you may think of him, the guy is brilliant – just the kind we loved in school. What does UK owe India? In case you have not seen it as yet.

Finally, a colleague forwarded this excellent article on founder. We know a few things about startups that the article emphasizes. First, many startups fail because the founder is not capable of running the larger company and it is the job of the initial investors to either ask the founder to leave or surround them with “adults”. Second, while it may seem contradictory to the previous observation, business models of startup change, and as such, you are betting on the team. As the article states:

“Let’s be real – the venture capitalists (VCs) who funded him with millions of dollars are good judges of talent. They make their money judging people and teams; they know that business models evolve and change; their business is to back people.”

But what I liked most from the article were the two selections below:

“If you are a lone-player with great talent – like a sportsperson or an artist or painter – you are then free to work alone, without regard to what the world thinks of you. You have no responsibility, except to hone your own talent – to become the best in the world, and to strive for excellence. It’s a lonely journey, where you learn to practice hard and live your own failures.”

“But if you’ve chosen to be a manager, you’ve then got to be among people, collaborate with them, lead them or be led by them, be able to handle their frustrations, to handle their competence and their incompetence. It’s an ego-crushing journey where you need to learn to allow people their space to work. It has very little to do with intelligence – it is more about developing sensitivity – finding a way to motivate people, to pull them in one direction.”

I have always believed in these above quotes, and also acutely aware my strengths / personality set me up for the former, but not the latter. But now I work in a 600,000+ person organization – can’t have more clearly set myself up for failure.



Magic Dust

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein

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