The addressable gap in Warsaw as a service

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There are many indexes showing how cities rank worldwide - they usually compare cities in terms of being the most global, having the most powerful economy, the richest culture or the best quality of life. These indexes are especially important for cities, which want to strengthen their ability to compete globally as they enable for precise benchmarking against competition. We looked at the A.T. Kearney Global City Index results for Warsaw to identify the city’s gaps and opportunities for improvement on its way to becoming a truly global city, a city which could take full advantage from such phenomenon as Brexit. The metrics in business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience and in political engagement place Warsaw on the 55th position in the world (out of 125). This result is rather moderate and, looking back at previous two years, shows a lack of substantial change. The report indicates that the biggest obstacle for Warsaw to become a truly global city is insufficient human capital.

Human capital is a source of creative power in science, technology, business, arts, culture and other activities. There is an ongoing competition for human talent on an international scale since many cities have realized that future prosperity depends rather on people and networks than on natural resources and tax breaks. Likewise, companies go to great lengths to attract highly educated and skilled workers. Therefore, in many cases CEOs’ decision of expansion to a new city is based upon an assessment of human capital availability.

Poland, generally, is still lagging in the area of attracting talent not only behind the most developed Western countries or China but also behind its regional partners: Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Even though in the recent Liveability Ranking, released by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Warsaw closes the tier of cities presenting few, if any, major challenges to residents’ lifestyles, the EIU assesses that the capital of Poland is still not among ideal places to study, work and live. And indeed, such an assessment seems to be confirmed by the lack of diversity in the streets of the city and at its universities - internationalization of Polish higher education is among the lowest in the European Union and OECD countries.

Challenging at first sight, such a situation can be addressed starting with a realization that a city is in fact a combination of services (healthcare, transportation, education, entertainment, housing, etc.) delivered to a variety of users (inhabitants, workers, students, tourists, etc.). By consequence, as other services, a city can very naturally be a subject of service design.

Solving the challenge requires determining the target: which particular groups of new users, assumed to represent incremental human capital, the city would like to attract and what are the needs and challenges of these groups.

Rather than on guessing, the knowledge on these needs and challenges should be built on target user research. In this case, preferably ethnographic research, enabling to holistically understand the interaction with the target users’ environment. Not surprisingly, for research purposes most of the target groups, would have to be sought entirely in locations which are proper for such groups - in other words, not in the city at stake or in the country surrounding it, with the exception of these few international students or expats, who have already ventured into the country but have not yet settled in for good. For instance, gathering insights on senior London bankers, should take place in London, at Heathrow Airport, etc.- wherever their needs and barriers may take them.

Beyond covering the components of what means liveability for the target groups, the research, to be sufficiently comprehensive, would also have to cover potential frictions and drivers to the relocation.

Only then should the city (such as Warsaw) develop insights based target group specific prototype relocation user journeys and prototype service enhancements. Iterative user testing and improvement should enable to refine the solution prototypes until they are ready for implementation.

In parallel, the research should help the prioritization of the groups with respect to return on effort, taking into account financial and other constraints.

Given the constraints, not everything might be immediately implementable, but it is important to have a long-term strategy to strengthen the key characteristics increasing the probability of meeting the needs of the target user groups to attract and retain them.

Finally, oftentimes the research, prototyping and iterative testing enable to identify small and easily implementable changes, which lead to quick wins boosting the brand and opening a Blue Ocean of competitive advantage.

In case of Warsaw, we are convinced that the challenge of attracting human capital is perfectly addressable. It is just a matter of a right approach.

So, Warsaw – shall we start?