The CMO Club Chicago Chapter Dinner Recap. What City Characteristics Produce Innovation?

Why do some cities like Seattle become hotbeds of innovation while others are not credited with a single major global brand? Phil Clement, formally of AON, explains.

Key Takeaways

 Phil Clement 

Why do some cities like Seattle become hotbeds of innovation while others are not credited with a single major global brand?  Nike, Starbucks, Amazon, Costco, Nordstrom, Boeing, iconic rock band Nirvana all emerged from Seattle. Much larger cities and many urban markets have no such track record. Why are some cities such fertile innovation platforms and others not so much?

  • A culture of unplanned serendipity and the everyday reputation of a city fosters the foundation behind its ability to birth innovation.
  • Seattle has a culture of service, coupled with a passionate rebellion,unfettered retail, and ecological mindset that yields high-quality expectations and free-thinking brands.
  • In the early 1970’s Boeing cut 100,000 engineers from its payroll, releasing them into the greater Seattle area, where a good portion of them can be credited with the design and technologies that underpin many of the innovations that arose from Seattle.  One developed the rubber for Nike shoes.
  • Chicago is such a place as well, where Midwest spirit and helpful attitudes marry with a scrappy Second City Competitiveness, attributes that drive its business approach. Think post-Chicago Fire city planning, architectural engineering, agricultural innovation, the catalog era of Sears and Montgomery Ward, the 1893 Columbia World Exposition, the White City, the Mob, and “Windy City” politics.  Chicago has a pride, heritage and “can-do, don’t tell me I can’t” personality that carries through its approach even today.
  • The Chicago Chapter is a microcosm of this discussion, with member companies ranging from medical/dental, garage doors, insurance, food and beverage, hospitality and professional services, bringing diverse expertise and global experiences to the discussion.  Chicago challenges other chapter cities in innovation and attitude. We ain’t no Second!