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Posted: April 14, 2018

Shifting from potholes to potential

How to Evolve our Kootenay Rockies – including a recommendation on The Rainforest book.

By David B. Savage


In 2018, we in the Kootenay Rockies continue to be threatened by lack of opportunity, leadership and a vision.

We can become a globally recognized place for leadership, critical thinking, collaboration and creating shared value.

Instead, too often, we focus on what is in front of us right now instead of creating a bright future. Since 1995, Cranbrook has been told “we are 20,000 and growing.” Our bright high school and college graduates, too often, choose to move away from the Kootenay Rockies to centres that offer far more career, social, educational and political opportunities.

We fix potholes, literally and figuratively, and have no true and shared vision of the future we can create together. We have a relatively senior and white demographic. We have an unusually large percentage of our work as government jobs. Government pay cheques are a blessing. Yet, entrepreneurs drive the economy that provides us the services of the government.

We are living in an increasingly fast paced, complex, challenging, digitally connected and socially isolated world. Many of us simply want the outside world to go away so we can play here without others.

We love our natural place and yet, too often, abuse our lakes, grasslands and forests. Tourists around the world want to visit and/ or move their families to a place like ours. A place that offers safety, nature, healthy family activities, low cost of living and much more. The challenge: we offer little opportunity create new businesses and innovation here. “Love the Kootenay Rockies but there is no way my family could earn a good income there.” I’ll visit again.

At times, we act as if only we matter. Our future possibilities may be contracting for every age group.

Many of us, talk about and attempt to create a better future through leadership development, collaboration and economic development.

Another great conversation with local leader Glenn Dobie at Hot Shots in Cranbrook April 12, encouraged me to reach out to you.

Our Ecosystem

Elkford, Sparwood, Ferne, Grasmere, Jaffray, Cranbrook, Kimberley, Creston, Canal Flats, Fairmont, Invermere, Radium, and all our smaller centres have many great leaders (social, environmental, community, service organization, political and economic). We have many brilliant young women and men.

Organizations like the Columbia Basin Trust, JCI Kootenay, Rotary, Lions, TrailsBC, Community Futures, Wildsight, Ground Floor Cranbrook, The Divisions of Family Practice, The Canadian Rockies International Airport, and many more are leading change and regional development. Every one of these organizations has, and is developing, great leaders who make our Kootenay Rockies better every day.


  • too often we do it in our own silos,
  • many in positions of control are the barriers,
  • many of our elected and organizational leaders in our region are hampered by regulations, expectations, limited vision, lack of courage and/ or a belief they must be in control.

The command and control/ hero leaders place themselves in increasingly challenging and precarious positions as complexity, challenge, global influences…

Evolution of the Idea

Many of us dream together. And yearn to evolve beyond the old economy that we live in. We dream of ideas, collectives, and careers where we can create shared value. Creating shared value is an idea that came from Harvard in the past five years. “What is good for business is good for community.” Was the old idea. The newer realization is the environment always comes first, and the community informs business what is wishes to buy. Those organizations that have adopted Creating Shared Value are global leaders and provide their stakeholder better outcomes.

We are evolving.

Twelve years ago, I brought together leaders in our region for a monthly circle to discuss current issues and possibilities.

Ten years ago, Colin Campbell, others and I created a dream of the Kootenay Leadership Institute. We saw the need and opportunity to mentor and coach young leaders to help them develop their leadership, dreams and future and stay here.

Five years ago, Sheldon Isaman, many participants and I developed a vision of a land plan that would create Canada’s greenest and most business, residential and community innovation friendly centre; the Rockyview Development adjacent to Cranbrook.

Three years ago, Laura Hummelle, Becky Pelkonan and I developed the concept for a Centre of Collaborative Leadership and Economic Development for our Cranbrook and Kimberley area.

Yes, there have been many people working together to find and develop collaborations and leaders to evolve our region. Many more than what I have done. Yet, we have limited progress in creating a unifying vision to design our future and how to get there. Too often, our current demanding busy lives keep us from reaching outside our organizations to create a better future. We are too busy to be great.


Are you open to change and changing your behaviors to understand?

  • Why the future matters?
  • What are the qualities of a collaborative leader?
  • What would a leader do?
  • What do you choose?
  • What behavior will you change now?
  • If there was a vehicle to create a better future for out Kootenay Rockies, what would you commit to?

Our Potential

From my involvement in Rotary, speaking with local leaders, talking to JCI Kootenay, Mt. Baker students, TrailsBC, RDEK, CBT, … there is a yearning.

From my involvement with the Rainforest Summit in Calgary, the Canadian Centre for Advanced Leadership and the Haskayne School of Business, there is a yearning. The future is being created.

Let’s create the future evolutionary economy here.

If we collaborate effectively, we will get beyond our potholes and create potential. We can retain and attract the next generation of leaders and the next economy. We can build a new dream to realize our area as globally attractive place to learn, collaborate, innovate and lead, creating shared value and the next economy.

The Rainforest

As we struggle with our ecosystem and fail to make substantive changes, I direct us to The Rainforest. Here is the book.

Here is an excerpt from my 2018 Break Through to Yes: Unlocking the Possible within a Culture of Collaboration.

The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley. This book is a tremendous gift to leaders wishing to design and build an organizational culture that truly innovates and succeeds.

“… a radical new theory to explain the phenomenon of innovation eco- systems—social networks that generate extraordinary creativity and output. The authors challenge basic assumptions that economists have held for over a century. The Rainforest will transform the way you think about technology, business, and leadership.”

One of the key ideas in the Rainforest is that innovation and great success doesn’t come from being smarter, wealthier or any of the expected factors. Great innovation and success comes from those that collaborate best. An organizational ecosystem that features mutual support, high levels of trust and engagement and, more than anything, connecting resources freely (not competitively) succeeds. Rainforest groups are growing across the world.

You and your organization are invited to publicly commit to and sign the Rainforest Social Contract;

  1. I am joining a global community of people who share a common faith in the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. I am open to meeting anyone in this community.
  2. I understand that I will receive valuable help from others for free or at a very low cost.
  3. I agree to “pay forward” whatever positive benefits I receive. For every introduction I get, I will provide an introduction to another person. For every hour of advice I receive, I will give an hour of advice to someone else. For every risk someone takes with me, I will take a risk with a different person.
  4. I will give trust to others before expecting to receive trust in return. I will treat everyone fairly. I will take advantage of no one.
  5. I will bring people together, as none of us is as smart as all of us.
  6. I will dream, experiment, iterate, and persist. I understand that mistakes and failure are acceptable ways of testing new ideas.
  7. I will open myself to learning from others. I will help nurture learning in others.
  8. Each person is a role model for everyone else. I will live these ideals as a member of the Rainforest community.

A Call to Action

If this dream and potential engages you, then read The Rainforest, sign the Social Contract and reach out to me and others to move forward together.

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