Why cities and businesses benefit from clustering


It’s easy to assume that if we had no competition, business would be great.

It turns out, however, that we are much better off being near competitors than far away – and this is because of the benefits of clustering.

Four benefits in particular stand out.

The first is access to talent More companies in a region means a greater need for people with relevant skills. This may drive up prices for talent and attract people from elsewhere.

Alternatively, a company may spawn a host of related businesses set up by ex-employees.

One of the most famous examples of this happening is the traitorous eight, employees who left Shockley Laboratories to found Fairchild Semiconductor.

Fairchild Semiconductor in turn led to birth of Silicon Valley and the creation of several companies, including Intel, founded by Gordon Moore (of Moore’s law) and Robert Noyce from the original eight.

Proximity leads to productivity When we have competitors operating close by we watch them carefully and try to match what they are doing and keep up or stay ahead in the market.

This sense of competition means that we’re always trying to become better – to become more productive.

In a global economy anything that is seen as a commodity sees margins fall the virtually nothing.

The only way we can make money is by doing more better with the things that go into our business – and that means being more productive.

At the same time, we want our local economies to succeed – we have common interests Businesses don’t start and stop quickly. They take time and effort and investment.

If we work on something for a while we’d like it to be sustainable and endure.

In addition, when the local economy does well, everyone does well. For example the value of the houses we own goes up. There are more jobs, and our children don’t have to move cities or countries to find work.

So, working together to make our local economies grow makes perfect sense.

Although we can work with anyone anywhere, we still like face-to-face Finally, we can hire people from anywhere. But our competitive advantages may lie in what is available closer to home.

We need a local touch to tap into the ecosystem around us – and this is still best done with face-to-face contact and a personal connection with others.

That’s when we realise that there are other people that are in the same position as us, and yet more that have gone through a similar process before and can share their knowledge and insights with us.

To benefit from an ecosystem we must invest the time to become part of the ecosystem.

It’s give and get, not just come and take.

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