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Valued Drain

April 7, 2010

“Brain drain” is a term that has been popularized by the talking heads of the region to explain the loss of talent we’ve seen in Ohio. The approach is simple, since Ohio is lagging behind in terms of the high tech, “thinking” types of jobs; individuals leave the region to find these opportunities. While this seems like a logical conclusion, I think there is a more straightforward and painful reality, a reality that cuts to the very core of our human condition. Perhaps our problem is not so much brain drain, but “valued drain”.

People have a fundamental need to feel appreciated and valued for their contributions. Whether it’s in a family, a business, a school or a community. People want to know their thoughts count and matter, that their ideas are not dismissed at trivial or fool hearty. If someone does not feel like they matter, they can choose several alternatives; not getting involved, becoming apathetic, loosing interest and, eventually perhaps, leaving to find a place where they do feel valued.

What have we done to value people in Ohio? Specifically what have we done to engage the people between the ages of 18 and 50? I focus on this age range, as this is the core of Generation X and also Generation Y (and my age range, the upper end, wink).  What steps have our leadership taken to really listen to what these people want? Do they even understand this generation? I am not sure they do.

Within the current conundrum of our regions struggle to redefine itself in this global era, there is, by and large, a propensity to remain at the status quo.  A “this is the way it’s been done…” mentality…when someone does step up and say, “lets try this…” they are often looked upon as foolish and quickly dismissed as uninformed or too radical.

I hear elected officials such as county commissioners and town council members say, “get involved to make change”, sure, I’d buy that IF they would really allow the change to occur and not simply give it lip service.  I know this personally as I HAVE gotten involved, I’ve TRIED to voice my opinion, give insight, even point people to data sources and regional resources. In return, I see…well, you likely know the answer to this.

What is causing this fear to change? Is it simply fear of the unknown? Is it fear of failure? The reality is that we have stigmatized failure on all fronts of our lives. If we do not have the perfect job, love life, social life, etc…we’ve obviously done something wrong. We run our schools, government and our businesses this way. Failure is evil…period. Sir Ken Robinson, a thinker in term of education and change said, “If you are not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never produce anything original.” We have forgotten this positive approach to being agents of change.

There are a lot of people who have great ideas within our own communities (and even our own homes). They desperately want to be heard and valued.  Their voices are being ignored, obliterated in the windstorm of negativity, pessimism and fear. It’s time to hand over the mic and listen.

Categories: Uncategorized
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