Building a Front Row Culture

Seth Godin rocks

Seth Godin rocks

I’m a huge fan of the author/blogger Seth Godin.

Not only does he write amazing books (“Purple Cow”, “Linchpin” etc.) he blogs every single day. And most days, he hits it out of the park. That’s just remarkable.

Last week, he floored me with his blog entitled “Front Row Culture.” Here it is…

“The group files into the theater, buzzing. People hustle to get to the front row, sitting side by side, no empty seats. The event starts on time, the excitement is palpable.

The other group wanders in. The front row is empty and stays that way. There are two or even three empty seats between each individual. The room is sort of dead.

In both cases, the CEO or the guest speaker is going to address the group for an hour. But the two groups couldn’t be more different.

The first organization sees possibility; the second sees risk and threat. The first group is eager to explore a new future; the second group misses the distant past.

The truth is this: it’s possible to hire for, train for and lead a front-row organization. And if you merely let entropy take over, you’re going to end up with the second, lesser, failing organization instead.

Worth saying this as clearly as possible: The culture, the choice of front row or back row, is a choice. It’s the result of investment and effort.

Where would you rather work?”

I read that blog at least five times. And then I thought, not only is this thinking applicable to businesses but it applies to cities as well.

“Where would you rather work”, can easily be replaced with where would you rather live?

For me, the difference between a “Front Row” culture and lethargy is the difference between aspiration and fear.

I’m attracted to communities that aspire.

I’m attracted to cities that have vision.

I like places that are willing to experiment and open to new ideas.

I think the cities that work are those that emphasize outcomes over process. Sure, you need rules, ethics, bidding and procedures but those procedures ought to facilitate outcomes, not hinder progress or change. We can nitpick or we can progress.

It shouldn’t take 20 attempts to issue an RFP and it shouldn’t take years to approve a project. You ought to be able to get a fence permit fast and you ought to be able to grab an attractive investment and entitle it quickly so you can be ready for the next one.

Front row cultures empower residents, business owners and public servants. Places that aspire enable and encourage people to solve problems and chase dreams.

The focus needs to be on creating opportunities for current and future residents—you always have to be focused on the future.

“What’s next”? is always the key question.

Complacency is a killer. Aspiration and possibility trumps fear and  dysfunction and creates quality of life and place.





  1. Kerry Koen says

    Being part of the “up close and personal” crowd allows one to feel and touch the excitement and palpable creativity which is missed if you sit “near the exits”. Arrive early for the the best seats, actively participate, take risks and …. please silence your cell phone..

    Kerry Koen

  2. This approach is of course the most sensible and conducive to vibrancy of any community. As Ghandi said ” the enemy is Fear…we think it is hate but it is fear”. The group that is sitting down contemplating risk and threat is cohorting with the real enemy. Including the inner relationship the meeting is fostering.
    Let’s foster positivity, creativity and growth….I’m with you…

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