(Originally published in the June 2014 issue of the Nova Scotia Business Journal)
The “One Nova Scotia” report identifies a crisis we are facing about our province and our city with respect to future growth prospects. The report also suggests that we have all the assets we need to thrive — talented people, quality post secondary institutions, a solid core of business and government services and assets, and natural resources. But something is missing.
The Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy says it “has come to believe that the critical first step is a shift in attitudes and a greater willingness and capacity on the part of business, key institutions and communities throughout Nova Scotia to join together in the pursuit of shared goals.” What we have is a crisis of confidence and attitude.
Some of us keep our heads in the sand and are unable to see the problems and opportunities before us. These “gatekeepers” feel that steady as she goes is fine and tend to resist both change and growth. They don’t believe growth needs to happen to feed the quality of life they demand. They figure government can just keep paying for services… even as revenues decline. Others are activist pessimists. They see little potential in the economy of our city, our province and our region. They don’t believe growth can happen and are quite happy to tell that to anyone who will listen.
Unfortunately, polar extremes like these tend to grab attention and influence all of us. Sometimes these dominant but far from majority opinions make our province appear uncertain about growth and uncomfortable with successful people and companies. We seem susceptible to zero-sum attitudes where if some other business, region or person is successful it is at the cost of someone else.
Attitudes need to change. A good attitude is the secret sauce of a strong innovation culture and a strong innovation culture is the key to a successful community. In this kind of culture, businesses, governments, universities and NGOs are able to relate to a singular goal which places community objectives ahead of organizational and personal goals. Collaboration and partnerships build on a solid foundation of trust and a “can do” attitude that accepts and manages risk.
So innovative ecosystems are part about having the right tools and part about having the right attitude. Fortunately attitude is a decision — a personal decision about how to act and behave. We can choose tomorrow to behave differently. This is what we have to work on in our province. Our future depends on it.
Fred Morley is the executive vice president and chief economist of the Greater Halifax Partnership. He has written over 100 articles on economic growth issues and presented his views to dozens of organizations and governments around the world. You can reach Fred at email@example.com.