by Rob White
During my time writing for the Davis Vanguard, I have mentioned several times the idea of abundance. And rightfully so, commenters and readers alike have asked me (both on and off the blog) what I mean when I say that.
Though I am not sure of the exact time of when the idea came in to my world view, I can trace it meaningfully back to when I was working with several people at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab while employed by the City of Livermore. Specifically, an individual named James “Buck” Koonce and I sat many times in meetings or strategy sessions over a few year period and would discuss how to partner and collaborate between the city and the Lab.
Buck held several roles at the Lab when I was there, including special assistant to the Lab director and eventually director of economic development, the first so titled position at Lawrence Livermore (and perhaps any energy lab in the US). Prior to arriving at the Lab, his career had included several decades of work for the University of California Office of the President (UCOP), including acting as liaison to UC Berkeley and the energy labs at Lawrence Berkeley and Los Alamos.
When Buck and I would strategize together, it was always with a mindset of how could we both compete and collaborate with other agencies, cities, regions and even countries. We used words like “collabatition”, “competimates” and “coopetition” to refer to the idea that even though we may be competing with others in a work sense, partnership would lead to better regional, national and global outcomes. We even did a presentation on these concepts at the Association of University Research Parks conference in New Orleans in 2011.
Interestingly enough, while at the conference we found out that we were not the only ones to be thinking in this mindset as the term “coopetition” had already been coined and was used more widely than we realized. And after more presentations and work with other regions, we also realized the other terms were in heavy use as well. And if you Google the terms now, you can see all kinds of definitional applications of the concepts.
What made me think of these ideas for this article were two things: 1. I recently read an article on LinkedIn by Barbara Gray titled “The Abundance Economy: Where the Long Tail Meets the Blue Ocean.” In this case, the “long tail” reference is about supply and “blue ocean” is about demand.
The article is a little meaty with lots of tech industry case studies as examples, but the upshot is that the way that companies have marketed and monetize their products in the past is becoming significantly different. Companies like Airbnb, Uber and etsy are challenging the way we look at goods and services in a traditional sense and opening up completely new “social network” based economics.
The other was that after I left Livermore, Buck retried from public service and we lost even occasional contact and we haven’t chatted in almost a year. Just the other day, he sent me an email completely out of the blue, updating me on his whereabouts, his retirement activities and suggesting we get together soon. And as has always been true with Buck, there wasn’t an ounce of self-serving attitude in the email.
And it made me think… what am I grateful for? What are the opportunities here in Davis and the region? What is meaningful work that leads to greater outcomes than any single person’s efforts? And above all else, how can I approach my own projects and activities with a renewed sense of abundance, challenging traditional concepts and norms?
So when you hear me use the term of abundance, I am referring to a concept of collaboration and partnership that uses our collective skills to the greatest extent possible to find the maximum possible outcome. This of course realizes that we as individuals will have competing needs, wants and desires. But also holds steady the view that there is usually a best fit scenario if each of the parties can (to the extent possible) remove ego and personal preference to achieve a maximum outcome.
It seems unrealistic to expect that any project, activity or effort will make everyone happy at all times. But what I hope we can achieve as we look at the future options for Davis is an approach that includes genuine and open dialogue, with individuals expressing preferences and concerns, but without any one party dictating outcomes or demands.
Davis has been a leader in finding new and creative solutions to our modern challenges… approaches that have been adopted globally. Movements like sustainability, adaptation, and zero net energy.
So why shouldn’t we expect the same of ourselves now?
The world is full of entitlement mentalities and regulatory approaches to desirable outcomes. But many places with strong regulations or command and control enforcement do not achieve the desired outcomes. When you change people’s mindsets using rational approaches, then durable and lasting outcomes can be achieved.
It seems that it wasn’t saddling businesses with forced regulation and expensive environmental controls that made sustainability move to the forefront of corporate responsibility. But when businesses could see simple financial drivers with ROIs that helped their bottom line, they started to more quickly move towards money-saving solutions like energy and water conservation, renewable energy sources and sustainable building materials.
Now we have an opportunity to once again be leaders in solving several of the problems that are likely to become global issues. How do you create financially, environmentally, and socially sustainable communities while maintaining to the extent possible the character and charm that makes the community unique?
I don’t claim to have the answer to that conundrum, but I believe an intelligent, cohesive community like Davis might be able to come up with some approaches.
Thanks for reading. Your thoughts are always welcome. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org if you choose to email me directly or you can follow me on Twitter @mrobertwhite.