The Culture of the Possible: How a Micro-City Excels Globally

  • Laurie
  • 2016-04-04

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There’s a small residential neighborhood at the base of the University of New Brunswick (UNB) campus. Its borders (comprised of UNB, a commuting/walking trail, and the Saint John River) form a triangle, inside of which are about 120 Victorian and early 20th Century homes.  They are mostly single-family homes, with a smattering of student flats. 

It’s a true neighborhood. Neighbors are friends. The kids attend the same public schools and safely walk to each other’s houses for playdates. In this middle to upper-middle class enclave, $300K gets you in. One million gets you a 6000 square foot Victorian mansion with a river view. Peanuts by Toronto or Vancouver standards.

Today this tiny neighborhood looks much like it did 20 years ago when one of its daughters received notice that she’d been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship [link: http://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk/]. She knew what to expect at Oxford thanks to her neighbor around the corner, who won another Rhodes Scholarship two years previously.

Two Rhodes scholarships within two years won by children raised within two blocks of each other. Fairly remarkable for a tiny neighborhood in a Canadian micro-city of less than 100,000. You could chalk it up to coincidence. But coincidence doesn’t explain the consistently remarkable career paths of the other alumnae of the ‘hood from that era:

Chief of Staff for a former US President, then head of his international charitable foundation

A couple of specialists with World Bank and United Nations

Founder and CEO of a major US hedge fund

Founder and CEO of a multi-million property development firm

Grammy award-winning musician & Genie Award-winning filmmaker

Current associate US attorney and former clerk for a justice of the United States Supreme Court

Canadian Olympic team coach

LPGA player coach and head instructor at an international golf academy

Leading agricultural geneticist and founder of a prominent biodiversity lab

Producing successful people is not remarkable in itself. Every community produces successes. But not every community produces a high volume of people who are both interested and more importantly, successful at competing in a global market.

So how does one tiny neighborhood on the East Coast of Canada--located far from the power and wealth corridors of the 1%--punch so much higher than its weight class?

It comes down to culture. A culture that breeds an appetite for greatness.

Every organization tries to build it. Many a business writer, philosopher, or sociologist will try to tell you how to do it. Richard Florida has made a very good living doing just that.

Over the next three weeks, we’ll explore the unique characteristics that enabled this neighborhood to create a culture of greatness. And we’ll tell you how we’re trying to recreate those elements in our business culture.

Watch for our next blog where we’ll explore the building blocks we believe will build an even greater Fredericton business community.

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