Do MESH Cities Innovators Need a S.U.R.V.I.V.A.L. Guide to Manage A Changing World?

Page from Google Play’s Special Forces Survival Guide

The MESH Cities S.U.R.V.I.V.A.L. Guide (Via Google Play and the US Special Forces)

  1. S = Size up the situation
  2. U = Undue haste makes waste
  3. R = Remember where you are
  4. V = Vanquish fear and panic
  5. I = Improvise
  6. V = Value living
  7. A = Act like the natives
  8. L = Learn

Entrepreneurs and designers building smart products for massively changing cities work in a highly competitive world that doesn’t appreciate their efforts until time and/or popular acceptance prove they were right. The ebbs and flows of market interest can be fickle. Staying on track and positive can be hard when all your support structures are being tested. Here’s what people who are trained to survive do to win in the face of adversity (and today’s urban challenges are enough to discourage even the most fearless among us) .

When Special Forces units are in the middle of a battle with no time for reflection, they use the acronym – SURVIVAL – to help them cope. While the stakes of making bad design or innovation choices are not as high as those found in combat, when you’ve got your life savings on the line, being able to improve your situation when things are tough is an invaluable skill. The following guide is for smart city innovators who travel new paths without guides showing them the way.

  • S = Size up the situation

In order to make the right decisions under pressure you have know where you are and what the situation is. Take time to list all your resources. What factors do you have in your favour? What forces are working against you? Research. Get some facts. You don’t have to win every battle to win the war. Remember, city data generated by the Internet of Things will be a firehose, not a lawn sprinkler. Use that information to understand the situation you find yourself in.

  • U = Undue haste makes waste

No matter how threatening the moment you are in now there is always going to be another moment following it – unless you lose your head. Even though it seems nonintuitive, take a moment to be sure you are ready for your next step. Review the data you have acquired. Plan. With all that information coming at you and your staff, take a moment to consider that Rome wasn’t built in a day. The problems you’re working on took a long time to develop, and people will be coping with them for a long time to come. Chill out. Take a breath. Generate new ways of looking at the challenge you face.

  • R = Remember where you are

You are here because of a number of decisions and choices made along the road. Know your mission and strategy. Don’t be surprised – be prepared. City designers of all types are susceptible to doubt, not to mention an endless barrage of distractions. Cities are complex! Have a plan. Stick to it. Don’t waiver.

  • V = Vanquish fear

If you are overwhelmed by fear or procrastination then the game might as well be over. To keep moving requires self-discipline, courage, and intelligence. Don’t acquire habits that will slow you down or make you more susceptible to fear. Designing the cities of tomorrow is no small challenge. People everywhere will tell you why you and your ideas are not up to the task. Have the intelligence to learn when those criticisms are sound. Have the courage to continue when they aren’t.

  • I = Improvise

Even best made plans cannot anticipate all eventualities. You have to be prepared to make new plans depending on circumstances. More importantly, be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them. Starting over again from a stronger position is often a good idea. You don’t have to be right all the time. Understand when a proposed solution is just a rehash of some design fad. But don’t let your failures keep you from improving the world around you. People, not technology, are the soul of MESH Cities.

  • V = Value living

Great causes need great martyrs but that’s not why you’re here. The world might just be a better place if you can survive and prosper – so, no heroics or fourth quarter hail-Mary passes. Leave that to your opponents. We all want to be heroes of one type or another but don’t let useless heroic acts stop you from long term success. Sometimes no matter how good your ideas are you just can’t win against entrenched opposition. Learn to suck it up and continue working.

  • A = Act like the natives

There is always someone around who knows more than you do about where you are. Don’t be afraid to seek them out. Ask them questions. Become like them if only to be better able to get them to talk. Respect who they are and what they do. You’ll be better off for it. The people who live in a community no matter how destitute know it better than you do. Often there are invisible social patterns that must be understood if change can happen.

  • L = Learn

You may be an inventor or designer or investor but no matter how you identify yourself be sure of one thing: What you know today may be useless tomorrow. Take the time to brush up on old skills and learn new ones. Make skill and knowledge building part of your every day life. A MESH City by its inherent form is in constant flux. Know what is driving that change and why. Put on your Buckminster Fuller hat. Try to think like an educated generalist. Balance explicit knowledge with the larger urban strategy you are faced with. The truth is, you’ll never know it all, but you can know enough to make a preponderance of right choices over time. And that’s all the cities of tomorrow can ask.


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