Learning from Others

Last week I participated on a panel that spoke to a group of 75 visitors from Park City, Utah. Later that evening I had dinner with some of our visitors.

Park City, like many other communities around the nation, has a long history of doing what are known as “intercity visits.” Basically, leaders in their community make structured annual trips to other communities to learn from them. It’s an idea worth considering.

According to the American Chamber of Commerce Executives:

An intercity visit is a regularly scheduled trip to another city or region taken by a diverse delegation comprised of leaders from a community’s public, private and nonprofit sectors. The visiting delegation and leaders from the host community discuss challenges and opportunities their community is facing. The visit provides an opportunity for interaction among city leaders and facilitates exchange of best practices and lessons learned.

These visits are often organized annually and thus serve as a regularly scheduled chance for collective community visioning. There is an important difference between an intercity visit and a trade mission, or even a delegation conducting research for a specific project. While participants on an intercity visit may bring back new ideas for a proposed project or establish a new business connection in the host city, neither of those valuable outcomes is the primary reason for the visit.

For our purposes, an intercity visit has two primary goals:

1. Sharing best practices and lessons learned; and

2. High-level networking among community leaders.

Twenty or so years ago Fort Collins did intercity visits, too. For reasons unknown, we stopped.

It may be time to rethink such trips. Granted, they take time and money, two rare and important commodities. However, my sense is that we could benefit in terms of learning best practices of other communities. Sometimes we would bring new ideas back that could benefit the community, while at other times validating what we are already doing. When things are going well, which they are for Fort Collins, it’s easy to become complacent and stop doing fundamental things like continuing to look for great ideas.