As I sat beside my mostly disinterested teenager at the recent Fort Collins City Plan kickoff event it seemed clear that “innovation” was the mantra of the night. As a student of organizational innovation, I was surprised by how quickly I joined my daughter’s feelings of disinterest and how quickly that morphed into frustration.
Reflecting on my frustration I’ve realized that this kickoff and process outline appear to be devoid of meaningful innovation strategies, save for a few outreach tools. The philosophy and structure generally mimic the typical tactic based planning just like the previous City Plan process cycles that I’ve participated in since 1998.
This plan should be more than a “vision” of Fort Collins for the next 20 years based on exercises meant to grade the current state of our community coupled with an all-encompassing ,and often inapplicable, future wish list.
If innovation is the desired outcome, not just a mantra, then the process and philosophy need to evolve. Planning processes must go beyond minutia-based conversations about aesthetics and personal interests, and the guiding philosophy needs to be holistic and forward looking, instead of protectionist and driven by the past.
Innovation often arises through adaptation. I’d encourage city leaders and staff to quickly adapt the upcoming process to start with reexamining and defining the purpose of the plan, and then utilize a process that creates a realistic & implementable macro-level community plan.
City Plan’s purpose should be to create a proactive comprehensive plan that is dynamically applied using strategically phased plans that acknowledges the past, understands today, but most importantly intently designs our future.
My innovative philosophy suggestion for City Plan would be continuum-based planning, rather than a continuity-based planning philosophy.
Continuity-based planning applies a fixed approach that shortsightedly seeks to define the future based only on today’s perspectives and realties. While there’s merit to this philosophy, it’s not a holistic approach and often stifles creativity, progression, and diversity due to importance placed on ensuring anything new fits yesterday or today’s context.
A continuum-based planning philosophy is possible with a few adaptations to our current approaches to ensure that they’re more dynamic and holistic. Philosophically, it requires an acknowledgment that 2038 Fort Collins is going to be vastly different from today and 20 years ago. More importantly, that each of these eras are to be equally valued for planning purposes. This seems easy in principal, but the emotional connection to the past/present makes this difficult.
Process wise we need to acknowledge that our planning continuum consists of 1998, 2018, and 2038. We need to establish 1998’s realities/perspectives and define 2038’s realities/perspectives. Then identify successes, failures, and linkages between 98’ and 18’ and work backwards from 38’ to 18’ to determine if there’re identifiable actions to create the desired linkages. This approach would create present, past, and future environmental scans that could then be overlaid to create a planning continuum from which to categorize priorities and realities from a holistic standpoint.
Ft. Collins has an exemplary planning history by comparison. However, I don’t believe what has gotten us here will be what gets us to where we need to be in 2038. A continuum-based philosophy and approach is the intentional adaptation needed to deliver upon City Plan’s innovation criteria being sought by our leaders and community.
A continuum-based philosophy and approach is the intentional adaptation needed to deliver the innovation criteria being sought by our leaders and community in City Plan.