Posted by on Dec 13, 2011 in Entrepreneurship, Opinion | 4 Comments

When I’m working with a client who is ready for a change, one exercise we do is a personality check. Specifically, we examine not only how the client sees himself, but we also examine how others perceive him. This adds a new dimension and a platform for a starting point for the client in his quest for re-branding and change.  In order to take the first step toward his goal, he must know where he is at.

So I did an experiment this week. I asked the people in my networks to get back at me with the first word they thought of when I said the word Detroit. After all, Detroit is like a person: it has a personality and a public face.

Photo Credit: Farlane, Flickr

I received so many responses in such a short amount of time that my phone almost died from buzzing. I also let the list float in my head for a  few days before I sat down to write.  Here’s what I got back:

  • Negative Comments (drugs, rundown, unemployment, bad economy, etc): 32%
  • Cars/Motown: 19%
  • Hope: 18%
  • Sports: 17%
  • Music (Eminem mostly):  6%
  • Murder/death: 5%
  • Casinos: 3%

37% of responses I received were negative while 41% of the responses I classified as positive or hopeful (hope, sports and music). The remainder were neutral.

The fact that there were slightly more positive remarks then negative was nice to see.  But the concepts of hope, sports and music aren’t going to revitalize Detroit on their own. I like Eminem, but he and Kid Rock aren’t going to be the reason somebody moves here to run their business.

Noticeably missing from the list were phrases about entrepreneurship, success and new opportunities (save one or two responses). They were missing from both the in-state and out-of-state comments even though there are great businesses starting up. It seems that exposure regarding what’s happening is still being drowned out by negative attention.

So three questions then:

  • Which five adjectives would you like to see others use when describing Detroit two to five years from now?
  • …Twenty years from now?
  • What steps can we take to ensure that such adjectives begin to appear at the top of people’s lists when describing Detroit?
  • I like “evolving”. My fear with the city is stagnation — several years back things started crashing down, and people become reactionary. Took about 4-5 years, but finally starting to see some of that #hustle in the local community. Interest in sticking around rather than heading to Chicago or elsewhere.

    Another word would be ‘opportunity’ — opportunity is abounding in this area right now if you know where to look.

    • Anonymous

      Alex I like your comment about becoming too reactionary. Like you and Jordan have stated, transformation sometimes requires some things to fail so that other things can grow.

      Great comments guys!

  • Ryan, great post as usual! One of the things I was thinking about is how much time we spent back at techsmith doing triage. Whenever someone would say “F this! It’s broken” we would intervene and then point them in the right direction. Typically we found it was just miss communication – that people were not aware of the solution, and just needed to be educated/shown. I think for the people that want to make a difference in detroit it is important to do some triage. If someone, especially from out of town says something negative perhaps suggest a solution – or point them towards one. These little bits will really help out, because at the very least people will see that we care about our brand.

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