Innovation hub will foster great ideas for our cities

Photo credit: Flickr user Mycatkins.

Last year, I served as a judge for the Gensler Design Excellence Awards.  As I read through the entries from Gensler’s dozens of offices around the world, I was struck by one program requirement that was repeated from entry to entry in the office category. It was this: Design a space for our firm that will support chance meetings and the constant exchange of ideas among our employees.

New website will explore how our cities get to what’s next” by Steven Johnson on Knight Blog

Register here for “How can communities create places that foster great ideas?”, a webinar with Steven Johnson on May 2 at Noon ET. ( 

Just before I went to Chicago for the Gensler assignment, I met Steven Johnson at a quirky little meeting at UC Berkley.  Steven, a prolific author and media theorist, was there to speak about his book, “Where Good Ideas Come From.”  He had just returned from shooting another segment of his new series for PBS and the BBC, “How We Got to Now,” scheduled for launch in fall 2014.

Steven is a great investigative reporter who takes on important, fascinating questions. Like Gensler’s clients, what he found is that the design and programming of place is central to sharing and spreading ideas. He also found that some environments squelch new ideas; some environments seem to breed them effortlessly. 

Our question at Knight Foundation is what can cities do to become places where ideas “breed effortlessly”? How can cities support dense networks of creative people? How can ideas be made to flow more freely? How can cities encourage more spillover of ideas? How can cities widen the pool of minds that can come up with good ideas? How can cities create the tables where good ideas can be shared, especially as the economy relies less on large corporations and more on workers who are increasingly independent?

As Steven put it, the city is naturally a great engine of supercreativity. How can we take advantage of this great engine, especially in Knight communities?

Steven’s new PBS series is sure to start that conversation. But at Knight we hope to supercharge it by investing in an online innovation hub connected to the series. Our aim is to engage civic, business and technology innovators, designers, planners, architects, and city officials in discussions about the design and programming of cities to accelerate innovation. Steven has found inspiring examples throughout history of these kinds of places. But what will those places look like in the future? And what can we learn from places around the world being developed right now? We believe there is so much more we can learn.

We will have a chance to talk to Steven May 2 in a free one-hour webinar discussion on how communities can create places that foster innovation. I’ll get the conversation started with questions to Steven, then take your questions. We’ll get started at noon EDT. Let us know if you plan to join us by registering here and get instructions on how to join the webinar.

Carol Coletta, vice president of community and national initiatives

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