Innovating innovation

Mike Bomar

Most of us can likely picture what a modern workspace looks like: open feel, collaborative work spaces, inspirational (or comedic) art, and, of course, a kegerator. We generally think of high-tech firms when imagining this type of environment, but the office I described is simply a symptom of a much larger shift in how most of today’s professionals view work. Those responding to the paradigm shift in workplace expectations are realizing higher productivity, lower turnover, and most importantly, innovation.

Cathy Davidson, author of Now You See It: How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century states, “Our students and workers are living and thinking in a 21st-century, digital, interconnected world, but we’re still educating and training them for a 20th-century, industrial, compartmentalized model.” If we as a community expect to attract the next generation of business leaders, we must embrace and fully understand the era of crowd-sourcing and the opportunities it provides.

In order to promote this type of understanding, the CREDC has joined WSU Vancouver’s Creative Media and Digital Culture program, the city of Vancouver and many other community groups in supporting the second annual #nextchapter program, focused on digital learning.
This partnership is representative of the type of collaboration that is required to make the kind of significant change that is needed to move forward. Perhaps the greatest benefit of working together is the ability to see things that you simply could not see alone. As Davidson says, “Things have changed, and it’s only right for our brains to change with them. It’s time for our schools, our workplaces, and our whole approach to attention to change as well.”

#nextchapter is a series of events and programs designed to give the entire community an opportunity to benefit from knowledge and discussions around digital learning. The CREDC will be hosting a luncheon with Cathy Davidson on May 9, focused on how businesses can adjust and prepare for the expectations of the incoming workforce. Creating more innovative workspaces and environments is a great place to start in making Clark County more attractive to innovative employers and employees.

Companies like Fisher Investments and Banfield Pet Hospital care very much about their employee experience. Both existing businesses and recruitment prospects are increasingly focused on quality of place. Beyond innovative workspaces and building layouts, our community can and should also focus on amenities and infrastructure that allow for employees to be creative indoors and out. This too will require collaboration and constant discussion with businesses, educators and community partners in developing the parks, schools and roads that contribute to an innovative community.

Hope is not a strategy for success. If we truly want to grow into the vibrant and creative center that we can be, we must all work hard together and get to know each other’s perspectives in a way that will allow us to continue to build a community where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Mike Bomar is the president of the Columbia River Economic Development Council. He can be reached at 360.694.5006 or

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