We don’t need a time machine… to stay relevant.

By MATT SCHULER, Digital Architect, Marx Layne

At Future Midwest, Jason Schmitt’s topic was one that had me most perplexed.  “What New Technology Firms Can Learn from Detroit Rock and Roll.”

“It is an unusual juxtaposition,” Schmitt writes on his blog. “I’ll give you that. But yes, I am in fact having the gumption to suggest the most modern of new tech startups, and iconic behemoths like Google and Microsoft, might want to peruse other creative ecosystems, like Detroit rock music — and to investigate these sites with the hope of better understanding their continued market relevance.”

Detroit has had a tremendous amount of creative success, and Schmitt would say the city is “getting somewhere in an information age where creativity is seemingly the king pin commodity.”

The key to true success is relevancy and in particular staying relevant for a long period of time.  It’s not enough to be a one hit wonder. You have to be edgy, defiant even.  You can’t follow the herd—you have to stay unique.

According to Schmitt, “most new tech firms are hardly a blip on the longitudinal timeline of creative success.”  And he’s right.  Taken in the context of history, the 13-year history of Google, seven-year history of Facebook, five-year history of Twitter and two-year history of Foursquare and two-month history of Color are a pittance.  They are blips right now and 100 years from now could be viewed as a passing fad, or as a titan of industry.

The comic xkcd illustrates how quickly change happens with its maps of online communities.  Part one, released spring 2007, is a dramatically different landscape than part two, released Spring/Summer 2010. That was just three years.

“Detroit has waded through the decades without majorly altering its course,” Schmitt writes.  “Detroit has been able to keep its compass aimed in the same direction: making good, truthful, gritty rock music. To continually do this, Detroit acknowledges the most recent fads and fashions with a grain of salt.”

Continuity is important. We don’t need a time machine to stay relevant.

This is the second of a seven-part series taking a look at how we can be a force of change for those around us.

Introduction: Back to the Future Midwest

Part 1: We don’t need a time machine…to predict the weather.

Part 2: We don’t need a time machine…to stay relevant.

Part 3: We don’t need a time machine…to know where we’re going.

Part 4: We don’t need a time machine…to tell the future.

Part 5: We don’t need a time machine…to live in the clouds.

Part 6: We don’t need a time machine…to bridge the digital divide.

Part 7: We don’t need a time machine…to drive the conversation.


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