andrew-hershbergerI believe that we are too polarized as a  society, and a latent — but important —  consequence is the effect that has on our economy. Politically and socially, we are entrenched and stuck in seemingly intractable positions, waiting for the opposition to explode or implode.

We are stuck in stasis.

As a community, Colorado Springs is ranked the fourth most conservative city in the United States. I’m not arguing against conservatism, exactly. I’m arguing against polarization.

If we ranked the fourth most liberal community, I would be just as concerned. In this climate, polarized sides look inward and focus on solidifying their respective bases instead of looking outward for growth.

Words become weapons in a battle to divide and conquer, rather than unify and grow.

We are a society that has converted concepts, values and words to divisive uses when they should be unifying us. Words like “free” and “American” don’t mean what they used to mean. In this battle for cultural domination, even the word “diversity” is a victim.

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Democracy is about representation. Free markets are about competition. Competition thrives in free markets and in open markets. Polarization is neither open nor competitive. Financial advisers recommend diversifying portfolios, but fostering diversity in our community — which directly benefits the local economy — isn’t considered worthy of pursuing.

We are holding ourselves captive to self-inflicted polarization.

We work to command and control the assets we have, instead of incubating and accelerating what we need and do not yet have.

The history of the United States economy is littered with examples of managing deteriorating assets to the bitter end — rather than investing in innovation. Innovation and diversity are inextricably linked.

Diversity is more than a tool for market segmentation, it’s a psychographic state of mind.

Change is the one constant in our economy.

People who can’t accept and embrace change will be left behind.

So here’s the hard question: Why is Colorado Springs being outpaced by the rest of the state?

Colorado has enjoyed one of the fastest growing economies in the nation. Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins are viewed as a giant economic zone; Colorado Springs, the second-largest city in the state, is excluded.

Innovation is thriving and young professionals are flocking to Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins — leaving the Springs behind.

Our neighbors to the north are laying the groundwork for a robust and sustainable economy for the next generation, while we slip deeper and deeper into an economic pit, playing at finger-pointing all the way down.

No one is suggesting we allow the military and greater Department of Defense market sector to shrink. But let’s stop being afraid to see the defense sector become a smaller portion of our entire portfolio.

We need to move beyond our managing assets and spend more time investing in opportunities. Very rarely do opportunities come from what we already control.

Any business will tell you that relying on a single client for more than a third of all revenue — let alone 44 percent — leaves that business excessively vulnerable to market cycles and fluctuations. Building our economic portfolio means looking for economic diversity where innovation thrives in an open and competitive ecosystem.

As energy continues to build around investing in a new and emerging “fit’ economy with a focus on health and wellness, the value and concept of diversity needs to be seized from those who use it to divide us as a community.

It’s time to diversify our portfolio. We can champion entrepreneurial diversity and diversity in commerce — or we can allow ourselves to slip into an irreversible economic stasis.

This city is ours. This choice is ours.

Andrew Hershberger is creative director and founder of Andrew Hershberger Creative. He can be reached at andrew@ahershbergercreative.com.