If IT built cities

2010

I read in Fast Company magazine the other day that Cisco is helping build a city in Korea. That's fine, I guess, because we need cities and someone has to help. Now, the track record of planned cities is sketchy at best (Canberra, Brasilia, the touristy parts of Manhattan) but it seems a noble experiment. But then I started to ponder the implications of this. Do you really want to live in a city built by your IT Department?

True, traffic inside the city would move at lightning speed which is a good thing for everyone. Mind you we'd have to get used to the idea of going next door by way of streets that take us miles out of the way first.

Of course you'd have to live downtown, because most days trying to get in town from outside would make you crazy. There'd be a 47 car lineup at the city entrance most days while the guy in the blue Kia tried to remember his password so he could get to work. No entrance without a password, after all. And don't even try to make it one you can actually remember, it will change in two weeks anyway.

Heaven help those who have to take the VPN highway to the city center. The road would simply disappear for hours at a time and then magically reappear. At least that's what you'd tell your boss to explain why she couldn't get hold of you that morning.

Everything you can imagine would be available in this city…and it better be, because the paperwork to bring anything else in- especially anything you use at home- would choke a horse. No need for an airport, at least.

Everyone would drive the same car, because of course that's more efficient. There would be a small pocket of rebels who insist on using faster, more efficient, cooler looking cars – let's call them i-cars - and they'd feel awfully superior to the rest of us. We'd look at them with a mixture of envy and fear until we realized there were a lot of roads and parking spaces they can't fit into and probably need a regular car to go to work with, anyway. (That's okay, there's an app for that).

Of course, there would be no vice in the city. Equally true, there'd be a well-worn six lane freeway that leads directly to a red-light district that is full of porn, gambling and great shopping. It would be unmarked and officially unacknowledged but everyone would know about it anyway.

Mind you, it could be worse. If a city run by IT would feel strange (and actually we live by these rules at work already so it would have an odd familiarity to it) I shudder to think about what would happen if other departments attempted to build cities of their own.

SALES CITY would be an interesting place to live - for a while. The good news is that everything would be shiny and new all the time. The bad news is that for one week every year it would be completely empty for a grand holiday called "Sales Conference" and would be a ghost town except for the thousands of unwashed peons doing maintenance.

There's no doubt that the Convention and visitors bureau would do a superb job of attracting visitors (they'd have an unlimited budget). Whether the promised attractions actually exist is another issue. Many visitors will find them closed for repairs or not yet finished (known in Sales City as "In Beta"). The other thing about Sales City is that your apartment could only be leased for one year, and then reassigned based on how close you are to quota. Don't unpack everything….

HR CITY would be quite a place. Everything would be neat and orderly. Neighborhoods would be laid out in "bands" with the size and quality of housing determined by what you do for a living. Travel between these bands is possible only once a year during the bacchanal known as "Annual Review Festival".

Everyone would know all the city bylaws by heart (there is a two week orientation when moving into HR City and a big thick book issued to all citizens) and the dating scene would be extremely dull (there are exceptions - See "Sales Conference"). Enforcement of bylaws is extremely efficient.

The city council would be fair, diverse, open and accessible. Except, that is, for four times a year when they go into seclusion to decide how they can be "more strategic". Meanwhile pot holes will continue to go unfilled.

Of course, this is the only city where the City Council has no say in their annual budget, they just take what they're given and make do.

A truly great city would be a highly-functional mix of all of these which seems like a lot to ask. So would a great company, but that's just a pipe dream too, right?

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

Wayne Turmel is a speaker, writer and co-founder of The Remote Leadership Institute. He’s passionate about helping people present, sell and lead people and projects using today’s virtual communication technology. His books include Meet Like You Mean It - a Leader’s Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings. Wayne is based in Chicago, IL.