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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Defining Picasso: finding one's way in the Pacific Northwest

My last two posts probably really have tested any the wonkiest of those interested in health care policy. I am pleased to be able to look up from health insurance data and look around the inspiring Pacific Northwest for my first commentary about my chosen home. The source of this inspiration was the basement of a courtroom through listening to a fellow potential jury mate with hair that was inspired by Picasso if he ever went through a bright purple period. Picasso’s inspiration started with a studded belt and nose ring and ended up with platinum rooted hair that started a cascade or pinks, red, and purples.

Actually, I am completely serious. I will keep this blog away from social commentary of the “Why did that person in front of me drive like they flunked jedi knight school but are still trying to use the force” or “You’re ordering coffee not conducting a congressional hearing” variety. However, the more that I listened in to her conversation, the more I realized my Picasso inspired jury mate symbolized the Northwest. Since I was entering financial data into spreadsheets, it was easy for me to listen and I was easily distracted. Here’s my thesis:

Mounting technology: Embracing technology is not subtle enough, she mounted it. I heard her talk about setting up account tracking spreadsheets for small businesses that will improve their productivity and tracking federal tax forms that caused a CPA to pause for a moment of reverence. It sounds like she does the hard work of being a change agent showing businesses about the benefits of automating accounts receivable and payable. It’s one thing to use new technology but other to evangelize it. Also the technology that she is promoting has a long track record and prove efficiency rather than web 2.whatever-version-we’re-supposed-to-be-on-now. Although I am a luddite with technology, I recognize it as the engine of this region as the Pacific Northwest has been successfully transition from timber and manufacturing to technology and sustainability. Those who embrace- er mount the proven technologies or latch onto the trends that win out, are more successful in this region. While that’s true in any part of the world, there are less legacy institutions that need to be overcome so new technologies gain traction quicker here and are more widespread.

Independence of Institutions: “Forget working for someone, just 1099 me” was her approach that can help those who move to the Pacific Northwest make it or break it. Outside of Seattle, there are not the large businesses that look for the corporate resume and offer a steady source of jobs. Therefore, you have to be willing to freelance, especially when times are tough. During my unemployment stint, I pulled myself out of it through independent consulting before I found my way to the corporate spigot of health insurance.

Don’t just judge appearances: As I described, she honestly looks like she’s transitioning from a Goth to Straight Edge phase and cultivated a “Blow me” appearance. However, from eavesdropping, I realized that she is savvy with regards to business and the impact of her chosen appearance. “Look at me, I’m never going to be chosen to serve on a jury. I don’t even have to wear my ‘I hate babies’ shirt.” A number of Pacific Northwesterns dress down or choose a Whole Foods cloth bag to carry work as opposed to brand name messenger bags. While appearance does play a role in business, it is not a deal breaker out here. Depending on how it’s used, it can be a differentiator, especially for the Creative Class that does flourish out here.

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