Massive change and building continues to happen in and around Milwaukee. With both come jobs, opportunity, density, discovery and discomfort.
Milwaukee's changing. You could argue it's changed for the better and a bit of the worse over the past 20 years. Both the good and some of the bad may be at odds, but that's OK if our challenges are being addressed and tackled with vigor and creativity.
It’s easy to say we want change, but for cities Milwaukee's size it’s often easier to just do what we've always done.
We can't do this. Milwaukee must continue to change, lead, get stuff done and be comfortable with discomfort.
I recently finished one of the best business books I’ve ever read, "Creativity, Inc." Written by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace, it’s a fascinating look at creativity, change, success, and well, life.
In the book, Catmull never seeks "to define the word creativity – and that’s intentional." Rather, he believes "that we all have the potential to solve problems and express ourselves creatively. What stands in our way are these hidden barriers – the misconceptions and assumptions that impede us without our knowing it."
At one point, though, he uses a phrase to clarify what creativity – and change – could mean – "unexpected connections between unrelated concepts or ideas."
I think about this, a lot. Especially when it comes to making Milwaukee, Downtown Milwaukee and greater Milwaukee even better.
We need to "fight" to bust out of perceptions that may hold us back and connect unrelated concepts and ideas. Many groups and leaders do this very well. We saw several examples this week at the MANDI Awards.
Life isn’t easy and making our city, neighborhoods and communities better is hard work. Becoming comfortable with discomfort is hard too. Battling, collaborating and connecting like we’ve never done before are necessary and required.
In the past several years, Milwaukee’s moved beyond its inferiority complex, risk aversion and fear of failure. Sure, all three still exist but there’s a sense that change is afoot. I’m hopeful we are all a part of it. Heck, if Des Moines can do it – Milwaukee can too.
Milwaukee - especially Downtown – needs to be and can be the City of Change. Change can seem cliche, but no one truly owns the concept. Yet cities that don’t embrace uncomfort and change will never succeed. As Catmull writes, "we must face the unknown. But if we do so with blinders on – if we shut out reality in the interest of keeping things simple – we will not excel."
Creativity, Inc. isn’t necessarily about cities. But, the lessons learned at Pixar from it are really sticking with me.
So, as Milwaukee continues to grapple with change, its future and its present we must own it, embrace it and become a city and an area that gets comfortable with constant discomfort.
A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.
He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.
Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.
He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.
He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.