Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The NEO Difference

We’ve been asking here and elsewhere for help identifying our region’s comparative advantage. We think we might have the answer and, like anything we know too well, we’ve been taking it for granted.

It's integrity. Yes, integrity. Our region and much of the Midwest is steep in a culture of values where we place a premium on integrity. This might explain why we’re slow to trust outsiders, yet others elsewhere aren’t slow to trust us.

This revelation was made this past weekend when living the full Cleveland experience:

Friday Forum at the City Club – Baldwin-Wallace College Profs. Alan Kolp and Peter Rea relayed highlights from their co-authored book, Integrity is a Growth Market. They explained how integrity is vital in a global economy; it is the glue in any strategic partnership, which is now practically the only way a company can conduct business internationally. Their message is so strong that it has attracted global business leader Pierre Evereart , chairman of In Bev, the world’s largest beverage company. He’s retiring in April and, as he announced on B-W’s campus at a speaking event in October, will soon collaborate with the liberal arts school when contributing to the reinvention of the regional economy.

Saturday reading of Inside Business at Half-Price Books - In the current issue Lute Harmon Sr. explains how he discovered Midwestern values as a young entrepreneur and how he has come to recognize our value system as the “NEO Success Formula.”

Sunday visit at Cleveland Museum of Art for the last day of its Arts & Crafts exhibit - This exhibit focused on the influence of the Arts & Crafts movement throughout the industrialized world. A significant section was dedicated to Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie Movement, which was a crusade to highlight the values and strengths embedded in Midwestern values and culture. It reminded us why we love where live, as love requires accepting faults to appreciate virtues.

We realized this weekend that we’re taking our region's strengths, our blessings and our birthright for granted. If we’re going to reinvent ourselves regionally, economically and strategically, we must leverage our assets. Integrity, which is central to our Midwestern culture, is a critical component to any bundle of characteristics that defines our comparative advantage. In fact it’s the glue. Without it we can’t participate in global markets. Let’s not take it for granted. Let’s put it to work so all of us can realize the full Cleveland.


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