Monday, May 16, 2011

Decoding Skorman: "World Class City"


What does "World Class" mean?

The Short Answer:  
leftist doublespeak for globalization


I heard the phrase “world class” three times today. I’ve decided to toss it on the scrap heap of “phrases that mean nothing to me anymore.” It dawned on me that the phrase “world class” isn’t indexed against anything. No one ever says, “that’s not world class, it’s American class.” While “China class” might refer to a room full of people studying Mandarin (or how China is whipping our American butts in education and so many other things), it doesn’t link in any meaningful way to the phrase “world class.” This is yet another phrase that the PR / marketing weenies have rendered irrelevant.
“We are building a world class management team. Our development organization is world class. We have a world class sales and marketing organization. Our company aspires to be world class.” C’mon – that means nothing.
In my first company, we talked briefly (I think about 60 seconds) about creating a mission “to be the best software consulting company in the world.” After all the MIT / Brown / Wellesley people in my company laughed (“hey Brad, who gives a damn about a stupid vague unattainable mission like that?”), I / we realized that vapid phrases didn’t inspire anything (except internal contempt). It took more than 60 seconds to come up with our mission, which was “We suck less.”
Now – “we suck less” means something. Our business was hard – if you were a provider or a customer / user of custom database applications in 1990, you understand what I mean.  We were usually the third or fourth company hired by our clients (our predecessors used up all the budget and then were fired because their stuff sucked) and the projects we were “starting on” were often already late and over budget before we even showed up at the party.

When we told our clients something like “we are better than the last guys”, they either groaned or laughed maniacally since they had already heard that a few times from the people that came before us. But when we told them “the thing we are doing is really hard, the guys before us sucked, but we are going to suck less and try our hardest to be successful for you” our clients usually related (at least when they laughed, it was with a smile on their face.)
We delivered more often then not. So – while we never achieved that elusive “world class” status, we definitely sucked less most of the time. And – when I wandered down the hallways saying “guys – focus on sucking less – that’s the key to our success”, people rallied a lot more than if I had shouted “we are going to be world class” from the rooftops.
By Brad Feld          May 10th, 2005     Categories: Pet Peeves

A global city (also called world city or sometimes alpha city or world center) is a city deemed to be an important node point in the global economic systemCities can fall from such categorization, as in the case of cities that have become less cosmopolitan and less internationally renowned in the current era.  
The terminology of "global city", as opposed to megacity, was popularized (not coined or invented)  in  1991 

In the United States, the ongoing migration of manufacturing jobs to Third World countries has led to significant urban decay. Therefore, to boost urban regeneration, tourism, and revenue, the goal of building a world-class city has recently become an obsession with the governments of some mid-size cities and their constituents. This is the case with cities like Louisville, Columbus, and Indianapolis.  Most such mid-size cities would not be recognized outside of their regions as "world cities" (or even within their regions). 

An influential attempt to define and categorise world cities was made by the Globalization and World Cities Study.  The roster ranked cities based on their provision of "advanced producer services" such as accountancy, advertising, banking/finance and law. 

The Inventory identifies three levels of world city, termed Alpha, Beta and Gamma for their relative influence. Each level contains two or three sub-ranks. 

There is also a fourth level of cities that show potential to become world cities in the future. This classification is not yet authoritative, but is certainly useful as a starting point for discussion.

The 2008 roster of leading Alpha, Beta and Gamma world cities is reproduced below; see the source for the complete roster:
  1. Alpha++ :  New York, London
  2. Alpha+ :   Hong Kong, Paris, Tokyo, Beijing
  3. Alpha :    Madrid, Moscow, Toronto, Brussels, Mumbai, Chicago
  4. Alpha- :  Amsterdam, Rome, Stockholm, Vienna, Athens, Los Angeles
  5. Beta+ :   Washington, San Francisco, Atlanta
  6. Beta :     Dallas, Boston
  7. Beta- :     Miami, Houston,
  8. Gamma+ : Denver, Minneapolis, Seattle
  9. Gamma :     Perth, Philadelphia, Portland
  10. Gamma- :     Detroit, San Diego, Columbus


Economic characteristics

  • Corporate headquarters for multinational corporations that have influence over the world economy.
  • Significant financial capacity/output
  • Stock market indices
  • Financial service provision; e.g., banks
  • Costs of living personal wealth; e.g., number of billionaires

Political characteristics

  • Influence on and participation in international affairs
  • Hosting headquarters for international organizations, eg USOC
  • The centre of a metropolitan area, typically several million
  • Diverse demographic constituencies based on various indicators: population, habitat, mobility, and urbanization (defined by the United Nations as movement of people from rural to urban areas)
  • Quality of life standards or city development
  • Expatriate communities (persons temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing or legal residence).

Cultural characteristics

  • International, first-name familiarity. For example, New York City is commonly referred to as just New York.
  • Renowned cultural institutions (often with high endowments), such as notable museums, street performers, and annual parades.
  • Several influential media outlets with an international reach, such as the BBC, Reuters, The New York Times.
  • A strong sporting community, including major sports facilities, and the ability and historical experience to host international sporting events such as the Olympic Games
  • Educational institutions; e.g., universities, research facilities
  • Sites of pilgrimage for world religions (for example, Mecca, Jerusalem or Rome)
  • Cities containing World Heritage Sites of historical and cultural significance
  • Tourism throughput
  • City as site or subject in Arts and Media, television, film, video games, music, literature, magazines, articles, documentary
  • City as an often repeated historic reference, showcase, or symbolic actions

Infrastructural characteristics

  • An advanced transportation system that includes several highways and/or a large mass transit network offering multiple modes of transportation (rapid transit, light rail, regional rail, ferry, or bus), for example the London Underground.
  • Extensive and popular mass transit systems, prominent rail usage, road vehicle usage, major seaports
  • A major international airport that serves as an established hub for several international airlines, for example, London. Airports with significant passenger traffic and international passengers traffic or cargo movements.
  • An advanced communications infrastructure on which modern trans-national corporations rely, such as fiberoptics, Wi-Fi networks, cellular phone services, and other high-speed lines of communications. For example, Seoul and Tokyo are known as the digital and technology capitals of the world.
  • Health facilities; e.g., hospitals, medical laboratories
  • Prominent skylines/skyscrapers (for example Chicago or Hong Kong)
  • Cities' telephone and mail services, airport flights-range, traffic congestion, availability of water, train facilities, nearby parks, hospitals, libraries, police stations, etc.

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