The Science of our Cities.

Recently, I was in Vegas and heard a talk on the “Return on Collisions” and how that actually manifests itself into cultural, economic and a true happiness increase within a given area such as a city core. It suddenly occurred to me that all along we were recording and measuring the return on these collisions and we just hadn’t identified them as being potentially the most important metric within our business.

During my time spent in Vegas, I met a woman named Natalie.
Natalie and I shared a bench outside of a coffee shop, while I waited for my meeting to begin. Since I had arrived 30 minutes early for this particular meeting (due to my unfamiliarity with the area) I had some time to kill. I spoke to Natalie and she told me a little bit about herself and emphasized how much she loved to sit in the sunshine and greet every customer as they walked in. It wasn’t until further into that day that I realized, Natalie owned this coffee-shop. Natalie filled me in on the “Downtown Project” initiative and the vision behind it, which was a vision of revitalization and community connectedness.

My meeting time arrived and Natalie and I shook hands and went on our separate ways. I would learn very quickly that this “collision” was in fact, serendipitous.

My intended meeting was with a man named Frank, who happens to be one of the leading connectors behind the Downtown Project initiative. I explained to Frank our company’s vision behind strengthening and revitalizing local networks across the world. Frank graciously connected me with the city science team in Vegas to further discuss and explore how our vision at HotSpot could align with the Downtown Project.

Later that afternoon, I joined a tent full of people anticipating Tony Hseih's upcoming talk. Tony was speaking on the importance of connectivity, collisions and measureable return. His talk had me on the edge of my seat as he was speaking what felt like, the exact language that our team had just started to explore; the language that created connected cities. The watershed moment for me though, was the moment that Natalie, from the coffee shop, appeared on the screen.

Natalie, owned the coffee shop. Natalie had helped me prepare for my meeting. Natalie had collided with me to ensure that I was well prepared for a very important introduction. There is and was a direct impact on that collision not only for me but for the entire city as I rippled out, got through the vetting process and got introduced to others. I realized that in our system we have data on this, we can actually create a measurable “Return on Collisions” and that’s why I’d like to step back and talk about connected cities.

The core of what we believe we’re doing at Hotspot is the creation of connected communities. This is extremely important for everyone because your local network is actually the most important network and has the most profound impact on your life.

The world has become very big as personal networks were mapped out, professional networks and every other niche group activity imaginable. However as the real world and the virtual representation of that world collide there is a key network that isn’t easily available.

That is the network I live in. The core community I engage with daily, the local network. Living in a city of 60,000 individuals each one of these individuals have a unique place within my city and actually have a very real and measurable impact on my quality of life and overall community experience.

We were lucky enough to spend 3 days in Las Vegas experiencing the hustle and bustle of the city. The moment you arrive in Las Vegas you feel a real change in culture, lifestyle and my presence within the community. I had suddenly become a part of that local network and would have an impact on Las Vegas the entire time I was there and Las Vegas would have an equal impact on me.

I had never thought of this impact as quantifiable, however Tony Hsieh’s speech at Collision actually explained that I was (by participating in the city culture) giving and receiving “collisionable hours”. This is why people have such drastically different experiences within cities, solely based on the amount of time they spend colliding. This essentially is the essence of luck. The more you put yourself out there and connect with people, the more both you and the local city network get in return as ideas are freely exchanged. At HotSpot we’ve been collecting data on this impact within our communities, we just never thought (until now) to turn it into an important and meaningful metric.

Connectivity is a core problem with all things. There is literally nothing in the world that does not strengthen and become greater if it’s connected to the internet and a network of contributors. This is why social networks are of such immense and inherent value. Simply by participating you create value. However, the epicenter of connectivity and ironically the least connected area is your city core.

Your city is a network. People live in such close proximity they’re consistently interacting. These are real relationships that have the biggest impact on our health, happiness and wellbeing. However with the dawn of the Internet and the creation of connectivity through the web, what previously was the best-connected area is now a laggard in adoption. It is incredibly easy for me to find out who the 17th king of England is but on the flipside it is incredibly difficult for me to figure out the soup of the day at a local coffee shop.

This will be the most important metric a city has in the coming years. Measurement on “connectivity of a city.” How many people are linked into our local network? How deep is that network? How often is discovery happening? What is my “return on discovery”? I guarantee you I will be returning to that coffee shop I’ve never been to before in my life based on the experiences I’ve had. We can and should be measuring that return.

What is my return on collisions? The connections I have within the city create value for me and the people I’ve met such as Frank who deeply understands the value of connections and by being an incredible match maker has given me a much deeper insight to their core values and amazing potential.

Finally, the most important thing I can do as an individual is physically be somewhere. The time I spend in certain places is actually the best indicator of that places’ importance to me. That (I believe) is the direct relationship between happiness and people. For me as an individual within a city if I spend all my time in art facilities and coffee shops, the experience I have within the city changes drastically and the network can and should respond to and change the experience to cater to my own personal agenda. Connect, collide and discover by actually being somewhere.

These are the topics my team has been thinking about for the last 9 months day in and day out. I was fortunate to be connected to easily, by far, the leading thinker/visionary in this space through Tony’s group, Dylan. Although Dylan and I spoke for a short 15 minutes, he opened my eyes to this as an emerging field. This is something that is happening on a daily basis, something that people are taking for granted, and Dylan and his city science team are positioned to understand, measure and optimize these collisions. I can’t predict the long term effects of this collision, but I can guarantee that I will be following that individual and incorporating their thought leadership into our work.

Fore more information on the Downtown Project, visit http://downtownproject.com/ and the Life is Beautiful festival here: http://www.lifeisbeautifulfestival.com/