Making cities for people in the fourth industrial revolution.

Cities are progressing into the era of digital transformation. The latest in a long list of city-making trends is 'smart cities'. While this new movement is important City-makers cannot lose sight of the fundamentals.

Since the industrial revolution, many cities lost the focus on people and exchange. Cars and movement gained primacy.

Yet, city-makers pushed back and demonstrated how to make people-friendly cities again. Now, most city leaders seek to create prosperous, lively, healthy, and sustainable cities. These goals lead to a city that is human-centred. The smart city movement is a means to these ends. Now, City-makers need to make rapid progress in these four areas and use digital transformation to amplify the impact.

City-makers understand the qualities which make great places. This is thanks to the work of Jan Gehl and Project for Public Spaces, and others. Methods are mature for assessing, mapping and communicating the state of existing places.

Expect innovation as city-makers adopt technology, digital platforms, social media, big data, and computer vision. The generative aspects of urbanism will be the next to develop, then the ability to make impacts at scale.

How might leaders make a bigger impact?

By this time you might have experienced design-led projects and place-led projects. Both approaches can be successful to make change. Yet, it still feels like cities need methods to make themselves more people-friendly. City-makers need globally consistent, scalable methods, and a common language. The Lean Startup helps city-makers in this area. It combines the best of design-led and place-led approaches by:

  • Valuing design expertise.

  • Demanding testing in the real world with real people.

  • Being strategic and focussed.

  • Having a bias toward action.

  • Valuing metrics which show real-world success rather than vanity.

And by being a validated method to:

  • Be customer / user-centred.

  • Change mindsets about how to achieve your team's mission.

  • Test out and remix ideas from other places.

  • Prioritise effort and reduce waste effort and resources.

  • Expect failure and turn it into a positive.

A strength of the Lean Startup is that it isn't owned by any single entity involved in city-making. It also aids collaboration by avoiding built environment professionals’ jargon.

Yet, the startup methods need integration with the long traditions of urbanism. People have over ten thousand years of practical examples in city-making. We should continue to learn from these proven methods while continuing to innovate.

Agile city-making combines start-up methods with place-led and design-led urbanism. Let's build on the traditions of urbanism in the digital era and make human-centred cities.


Overcome challenges that limit your progress on your big goals. Use a simple three step process to make an impact in your city. The steps:

  1. Engage.

  2. Accelerate.

  3. Adapt.

Contact us for an initial consultation about your goals.