A case study on network thinking.
This case study tells the story of a small town attempting to bring their economy into the 21st Century. You’ll learn about how network thinking helped.
The Pleasantham in the British Countryside. A group of community leaders, called the Pleasantham Partnership had been working together to identify ways to grow their economy. The town has lost most of its manufacturing jobs and the largest employers now is the hospital, and the boarding and day school located in the community, and only one of its small manufacturing plants that has survived. The group had worked with someone from a nearby university to look at some data to help them examine their assets. When looking at occupational data they were surprised to see that they had more jobs in Information Technology than anybody realized. They had no IT business in the town but upon closer examination they realized that those IT jobs were imbedded in non-IT business. The hospital, for instance, had IT professionals that supported the hospital’s networks. Also, the school had an IT person. Even that one manufacturer had a couple of people who developed and maintained computer programs for inventory and logistics.
The group decided it might be a good idea to bring these individuals together so they launched a “Tech Tuesday” event as an opportunity for those involved in or interested in technology to come and meet one another. They planned the event for late afternoon and also invited the computer teachers from the local high school and encouraged them to bring along any juniors or seniors who might be interested in the field.
Ten people showed up to the first Tech Tuesday. Although there was plenty of time for socializing of the community leaders also facilitated a group conversation asking a few questions about each persons’ backgrounds, current interests, and hopes for the future. Out of that first conversation some relationships began to develop and some new ideas began to emerge. One of those new ideas came about when two of the IT professionals, Miles and Liz, when they learned that they shared an interest in youth football. Both had primary-school aged children and both helped coach their kid’s football teams. They also discovered that each, had at one time or another, wished that they had had more support in learning how to coach and that a smartphone app for football coaches could meet a real need. The idea really began to take off and over the course of the next few weeks the two began spending some evening and weekend time doing conceptual work on what an app might look like.
Members of the Pleasantham Partnership helped support Liz and Miles with business model assistance from the rural development program, and even some microfinancing to hire two of students to help with the early programming. One member of the partnership, with connections to the university, helped connect them with a marketing professor, and a local solicitor helped them select and establish the right business structure for their new venture.
As the Pleasantham Paetnership thought about what Liz and Mile’s new ventures as well as other high-tech start-ups might need they realized that good highspeed internet infrastructure was lacking in parts of the town. They ended up securing government financing to help leverage private investment to bring fiber optics lines to the part of the central business districts that needed it.
Although Miles and Liz both kept their “day jobs” the midnight oil they had been burning paid off when the app was officially launched and quickly gained great reviews. Revenues for their app began to grow enough that they decided to resign from their jobs and work full time on developing new apps. Liz and Miles leased and renovated a great office space on Pleasantham’s High Street, hired three people, and went to work on their next product. Their new office space also served as the new home of Tech Tuesdays.
The Pleasantham Partnership began thinking about how they could leverage this one success story to attract or help launch other high-tech boutique businesses. Their future plans include converting more of High Street, where Brett and Lisa have their business, into a business incubator. They’ve rebranded that part of town as the High Street Digital Corridor.
© Purdue Agile Strategy Lab