The end of 2009 saw reflective lists from everyone who could get up the energy to dredge their memories and diaries. I’d like to offer a different list, a wishlist for 2010, or a to-do list for the decade if you can’t get to it this year. I contributed to a similar list focused solely on the Houston Music Community that was recently published in the Houston Press (One to Grow On). The list you’re about to read is a different one though, more broad and addressing city-wide issues. These items are aimed at improving the quality of life, reducing the friction of doing business, increasing innovation and harnessing the talent in a city or region. These are based on my perspective of Houston but could be widely applied.

1. The formation of more Communities of Practice.

Communities of Practice are groups of people who share similar interests, industries, or professions.  Meeting with others experiencing similar challenges allows the sharing of information and experiences between the group that the members can learn from to improve themselves personally and professionally. Communities of Practice are also great places to discuss standards of excellence. Examples of Communities of Practice that exist are: Meetup Groups, Startup Houston Happy Hours, Fresh Arts and Spacetaker‘s Arts  Leadership Forums, Netsquared, Bandcampus, AIGA, Coworking spaces, Hackerspaces, Barcamps.

When I say I’d like to see more Communities of Practice I mean new Communities of Practice that are focused on improving themselves. Example: coffee shops discussing their businesses and how to deal with the economy and the influx of customers camping out all day. Music venues discussing the state of the music economy and how they can use their role in the music community to help drive band’s careers and increased fan attendance. Music writers meeting to pick up on the newest bands or help new writers build their career. Marketing Directors sitting down to review their plans with each other and provide guidance.

If you are not a member of a Community of Practice, form or join one. Go out in a social setting to meet everybody and begin the information and knowledge sharing.

2. The conversion of the passive to the active in existing communities of practice and community based events.

If you are already a member of a Community of Practice and your monthly meetings focus solely on socializing and having drinks, stopStart planning situations where you can build the same camaraderie but accomplish something. Examples: Hackathons, Green Dev House, Dr. Sketchy, Startup Weekend, goal-oriented Barcamps, etc. Start taking advantage of peer-to-peer learning, just in time learning and other cases where learning and doing can be matched together, with beer if desired.

3. Greater communication between existing communities of practice towards the development of standards of excellence.

Your Community of Practice should not just get together to have a beer but take a proactive role in leading the economy in your industry. You owe it to your peers to tell them if they’re doing something that makes your profession look bad. Your peers owe it to you to share information which could help all of you streamline your process or be more successful as an industry.  Ask yourselves, “What can we be doing better?” “How are we all failing to serve our customers needs?” “What do we need to educate ourselves in?” Examples: Music venues setting unofficial non-compete regulations between each other because the musicians are unable to hold each other to them. Experienced bloggers taking a novice under their wing and teach them the ropes. Information sharing between local businesses in similar industries to determine pricing structures that promote standards of business w/o turning into price fixing or collusion.

4. Increased support for startup culture.

We are a creative culture and entrepreneurship and social activists are driving innovation in our cities. We owe it to them not to hinder their progress and to champion their efforts. This message works anywhere but the ideas are tailored for Houston. In Houston, increased support for startup culture could mean many things. First, I’d love to see the expansion and increased visibility of Startup Houston (who are doing a great job already) as the definitive source for news relating to the startup culture. There is a culture and a market that is not being fully served by the Houston Business Journal or the Houston Chronicle. One site doing it right for their city is Technically Philly. They regularly report on the  issues that relate to local startups and users of technology, have a fairly comprehensive startup/technology-issue-related calendar and have membership options to support the site and its contributors. A regular [and frequent] section in the Houston Chronicle or Houston Press that covers startup culture and focuses on local startups is another idea that would go a long way towards shedding some much needed light on the incredible talent of Houston entrepreneurs.

I’d love to start a dialogue about this. What other Communities of Practice do you think are doing it right?

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