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Nerds Rule!

Posted by Devin Cole  April 18, 2012 10:28 AM

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Steve Urkel.jpgLast Tuesday night about 70 local marketing professionals got together for a “marketing hackathon” to think through how we could better promote and communicate what’s special about our region’s Innovation Economy.

Our Innovation Economy is diverse – our tech, life sciences, education, clean energy, gaming, financial services, robotics, and design sectors are thriving and innovating on some really hard problems. And, as Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki reminded us during the hack, they’re not just building innovative products but they’re also creating new-to-the-world business models that are disrupting traditional approaches.

The challenge was to find a way to communicate our unique culture and make it meaningful to students, entrepreneurs and businesses who want to move/grow here and future employees who want to stay here. Not an easy task to be sure, especially when we are prone to comparing ourselves or trying to emulate Silicon Valley, Austin or New York City.

As we shared some of the best ideas from the hack, a theme started to gel for me – Boston, we need to embrace our inner nerd.

We are a community of super-geeks obsessed with solving difficult challenges and building things that matter, things that last. Our research and development capabilities are unparalleled in all industry sectors. Our brainiacs work on new solutions to problems because they are curious and interested, not because they want to be the next billionaires (although they are likely ok with that too.)

Massachusetts has the most educated workforce in the US, with 44.6% of the working age population sporting a four year college degree or higher. We have the largest collection of colleges and universities in a region, clocking in at over 100. Massachusetts also leads in federal funding and industry funding for R&D. And leads worldwide for industry-based R&D as a percent of private industry output. (source: Index of the Massachusetts Innovation Economy, Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, 2011)

We are nerds; it’s authentically part of our culture. It is this essential geekiness of playing with things, experimentation and discovery that drives us. It’s the connective thread among our innovation economy, and it’s time shout it out loud.

And nerdy is the new black. Think about the people we hold up as success stories in this day and age, even those that left Boston (rhymes with Uckerberg and Yates) – can you get nerdier than that? I think not.

We’re seeing it in music, fashion, movies, business and government; American culture appreciates the nerd more now than ever before.

Here in Massachusetts, I think we can credibly claim to be the nerd capital of the world, with the highest nerd per capita per square mile (Even higher during PAX East by 10X). So, let’s own it, and in doing so, give new life to our amazing Innovation Economy. How will you get your nerd on?

"Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one." -- Charles J. Sykes

Debi Kleiman currently serves as the President of the Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange, the nation's largest nonprofit trade association for digital marketing, media and internet business. Previously, she was VP of Product Marketing & Sales Operations at Communispace and spent close to 15 years as a B2C marketer for major packaged goods companies. She is a Boston World Partnerships Connector.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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