Is innovation dead for private sector planning firms?
Plan graphics aren't much different from 20 years ago. What's different today is the speed and efficiency that computers provide for the designers and drafters to produce them. Strategies for implementation - however poetic or beautifully phrased - are hindered by limited public resources and the milieu of the local political arena & its ties to the State and Federal decision-makers. A wizened planner with over 30 years of planning experience in both the public and private sectors once told me that planners recycle old ideas - it is our trade and currency.
And yet, private planning consulting firms remain profitable and continue to get more work. What is it that we are providing our clients? Is it innovation? Is it efficiency? Or is it about the networking game, the Good Old Boys Club, whatever you want to call it, the folks we associate with on the week-ends at the golf course or shooting range? Or is it something else? What brings your customers back? What gets you new customers? Can it really be innovation? I am skeptical since most bids and contracts are awarded by the elected or appointed municipal leaders - and that's a political environment, one that tends to be risk-averse and prefers to work with those that have a proven track record.