I’m not sure what *exactly* this has to do with Defrag, but I’m filing this under “things I’ve experienced as of late that may hold something to explore.” In roughly the last month, I’ve experienced two cultural niches that are fairly distinct from each other: Ybor city and the Flea Market at the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds.

Ybor is the “latin quarter” of Tampa. Think amazing spanish/cuban cuisine (The Columbia is a must eat-at restaurant that’s been there since 1905), and LOTS of old cuban men hand-rolling cigars on the sidewalks of storefronts. On any given saturday during the summer, you can come pretty close to feeling like you’re no longer walking the streets of a U.S. city.

The flea market at the belle-clair fairgrounds is exactly what you’d think it is if you’re ever been to a midwestern flea market. Aisles of “junk” (or treasure, depending) with a few little goodies thrown in to keep you interested (for example, a PERFECT death star set from the original Star Wars figurine set). Corn dogs, kettle corn and gooey butter cakes are surrounded by knives, trinkets, antiques and baseball cards.

Side by the side, the two are both uniquely fun and incredibly different.

It gets me thinking about two things:

1. I hear all this talk about how “culture” is the essential component in “enterprise 2.0” deployments, and I’m left wondering how in the world we can speak of “culture” in such a bland, un-embodied way. Culture isn’t “flat” versus “hierarchical” — culture is margaritas or martinis; folgers or starbucks; sawdust or concrete. In other words, culture is something our physical bodies *experience* – not simply something we can talk about “opening” or “closing” in a corporate sense. And yet all of the enterprise 2.0 “culture” talk I hear sounds so relatively uniform.

…which brings me to #2

2. The echo chamber. I can’t stand it. Now, the echo chamber can exist anywhere – in fact, it’s something we all (entrepreneurs, individuals and *especially* communities) should be “guarding” against. The echo chamber simply reinforces existing beliefs and sets up feedback loops that gets the group singing Kumbaya and nodding approvingly. The echo chamber is one of the reasons you’ll hear me rail against locating 90% of all tech conferences in California (the bay area). I don’t CARE if a high percentage of software geeks live there — the fact is that there is value in getting out of your normal cultural and community scene and plopping yourself into the middle of something new (geographically, sub-culturally). PLUS, it starts to break down the echo chamber. I try so hard to avoid an over-abundance of “echo chamber” speakers at defrag — and sometimes we fail and sometimes we succeed, but being in Ybor and now (today) the flea market reminds me why it’s so good.

Because we can learn something from cowboy hats AND cuban cigars.