We have recently moved the
Creative Class Exchange.

Please update your bookmarks with our new address at www.creativeclass.com

We look forward to your comments and discussion.

Thank you.

Posts by Author

  • Global Trends
  • Ask Rana: Advice on Work, Life and Play
  • Urban Digs, Creative Class Communities
  • Workplace
  • Entrepreneurship, Creative Class Strategies
  • Creative Class Research and Indicators
  • Architecture + Design

Video Interview

Watch a Speech

Hear a Speech




December 31, 2007

1.  Over at Innovation Playground Idris Mootee writes (pointer from CEOs for Cities):

Any atmosphere of crisis and tension kills creativity. Creative people need downtime to recharge so always give them time to dream. There is nothing called optimized creativity. Exploration requires time and we need to accept the fact they may have “strategic time wasting” mission as part of their job description. . A situation of constant stress does not let new ideas to flourish. We should encourage them to apply their imagination in the workplace and make sure they are appreciated for those efforts.

Have faith in the process and the people and do not try to micromanage their work. While routine tasks are important, you have to give people the freedom to explore “white spaces” and work out what may seem foolish ideas.

2.  Check out this Business Week story on how a "clouds," major new innovation happened at Google.

3.  William Holstein reviews Gary Hamel's terrific new book, The Future of Management over at the New York Times.

Mr. Hamel argues that these innovative companies realize that employees should not be treated like 13-year-olds who need clear boundaries on their freedom. Employees are on the front lines and are often closest to customer needs. As a result, they should have power to reveal to their hierarchies what products and services are needed, and they should be involved in deciding how the company’s time and money are spent. Moreover, they should be pursuing a passion or a mission, not just quarterly profits. The implication of all this is that we don’t need as many managers in organizations. Yes, we still need some managers and some centralized processes to prevent an organization from spinning wildly in all directions. But the best organizations will be those whose employees have the power to innovate, not just follow orders from on high, Mr. Hamel says. In such an environment, the notion of a whole class of managers evaluating and re-evaluating each action of those below them in a vertical hierarchy becomes nonsensical.

Here's the clincher.

As insightful as Mr. Hamel’s book is, it’s surprising that it has attracted so little attention since being published in October.

Why do you think that is - and might it say anything particularly relevant about the state of business management these days?

December 30, 2007

Richard Florida

City of the Future


The New York Times asked a handful of people to speculate on the city in 2108.  There are two that really resonate with me.  First up from Kim Hatreiter, co-founder of Paper magazine.

The island of Manhattan in 2108 is half the size of what it was a hundred years ago; Seventh Avenue and Third Avenue are waterfront. Richard Meier’s glass towers are under water and filled with schools of phosphorescent fish; tourists come by submarine taxi to see them. ... What used to be known as downtown types have all moved to what used to be called New Jersey. Bayonne is the new mecca for radical thought and creativity.

Next is Kate Kaplan, a 12 year old, 7th-grader at the School of the Future, a New York City public school near Gramercy Park.

The city will be all skyscrapers, no more town houses and brownstones. ... Central Park will be preserved in a bubble to protect it from the adverse effects of global warming. ... The Empire State Building will no longer be New York’s largest building; it will probably be replaced by a giant Starbucks.

My own sense: NY will no longer be the world's center for creativity and finance and no longer number among the world's ten largest cities. It may well lose its role as a magnet for talent and immigrants. It's trajectory across the 21st and 22nd centuries will be similar that of Berlin in the past century. Among North American cities, New York in 2108 will be similar in size, scale and influence to Toronto, Vancouver, San Francisco and Los Angeles.  In the west, New York influence will be far eclipsed by London which will become the financial and creative center for the western world.  But, the world's largest and most important cities will all be in Asia - from Beijing to Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore even Sydney - some may morph into dense mega-regions of 500 million people or more.  North America's most significant and vibrant cities will be the ones on its Pacific coast.

Your thoughts on New York - or how your own city will fare, or on the state of cities worldwide - a century for now?

Richard Florida

Dead Malls

The Economist says that America's mid-20th century suburban consumption machine is in decline.

By the early 1980s indoor shopping centres were woven tightly into American culture. New cuisines (the term is perhaps too grand) emerged in them, thanks to chains like Cinnabon and Panda Express, which did not exist outside malls. They began to swell to the point of absurdity. Canada's West Edmonton Mall, which opened in 1982, has an ice-skating rink, a pool with sea-lions and an indoor bungee jump. The Mall of America, in Minnesota, has three rollercoasters and more than 500 shops arranged in “streets” designed to appeal to different age groups. Every morning it opens early to accommodate a group of “mall walkers” who trudge around its 0.57-mile perimeter for exercise.

Artists and urban anthropologists began to note the appearance of mall-based tribes. Most celebrated—and lampooned—were the Valley girls who congregated in California's Glendale Galleria. Frank Zappa's then-teenage daughter, Moon Unit, wrote a hit song that captured their argot (“ohmigod!”, “no biggie”, “grody to the max”, “total space cadet”) and praised the Galleria for having “like, all these, like, really great shoe stores”. Mall-oriented films followed, spreading the Valley girls' culture like spores in the wind.

Just as the onward march of malls began to seem unstoppable, though, things began to go wrong. In just a few years they turned from temples of consumption to receptacles for social problems. The changing attitude to shopping malls can be seen in two films, both of which, appropriately, are to cinema what Panda Express is to the Chinese culinary tradition.

Urban designer, David Lewis, has long said finding ways to reuse "dead malls" will end up being a much bigger revitalization project then rebuilding urban centers.

Do you have a dead mall story you'd like to share?

Richard Florida

Music Models


David Byrne on the evolution of the music industry over at Wired (h/t: Brad Glonka, Kevin Stolarick). 

No single model will work for everyone. There's room for all of us. Some artists are the Coke and Pepsi of music, while others are the fine wine — or the funky home-brewed moonshine. And that's fine. I like Rihanna's "Umbrella" and Christina Aguilera's "Ain't No Other Man." Sometimes a corporate soft drink is what you want — just not at the expense of the other thing. In the recent past, it often seemed like all or nothing, but maybe now we won't be forced to choose. Ultimately, all these scenarios have to satisfy the same human urges: What do we need music to do? How do we visit the land in our head and the place in our heart that music takes us to? Can I get a round-trip ticket?

Actually, I like both of those songs too- they're hooky-catchy and they pack a punch.And, yes, I'm only admitting that because Mr. Byrne already did  The version of Umbrella Rihanna did at the World Music Awards in Monte Carlo rocked far harder then the original version. Problem is there are far fewer popular songs like this, these days.

But Byrne's article raises a deeper question. The great economist, Mancur Olson argued that  major shifts in economic models often go together with major geographic shifts - the rise and decline of nations or geographic regions.  Will this shift in the music industry model also cause a geographic shift and the rise of new musical centers?

December 29, 2007

Richard Florida

Urban Sound System


My new Globe and Mail column on music scenes is here. A short snippet below, the whole kit-and-kaboodle after the jump.

Something that has struck me for a while is the vibrancy of the music scene in Canada's three big cities. Feist and Broken Social Scene in Toronto, Arcade Fire in Montreal and the New Pornographers in Vancouver are just the most obvious examples of performers who not only have hit the proverbial "big time" but are also critics' darlings, with rave reviews in major music publications. Arcade Fire leader Win Butler recently shared the cover of Spin with Bruce Springsteen and Feist is a clear favourite in the Grammys, with nominations for best new artist, best female pop vocal performance for the song 1234 and best pop vocal album for The Reminder.

What's going on? Does all this signal that Canada's big three are on the verge of becoming music meccas? And does it say anything about their economic potential? As part of a new project on the music industry and its impact on regional economies, I worked with Kevin Stolarick, a University of Toronto colleague at the Martin Prosperity Institute, as well as Charlotta Mellander of our Prosperity Institute of Scandinavia and Scott Jackson, a doctoral student at George Mason University in Washington, D.C., to chart the evolution of popular music scenes and what they mean for regional economies. Our findings suggest there's good news coming.

Continue reading "Urban Sound System" »

Paul Krugman asks how far is down? 

"So I come down to the view that the price-rental ratio will have to move most if not all the way back to historical norms. And that’s a long, long way down."

Brad DeLong and Ryan Avent weigh in.

My assessment: it all depends on where you are.  It's not as simple as zoned versus flat or coast vs. middle.  This picture is geographically complex.

The Midwest will feel it badly.  Speculative markets with little in the way of a "real economy" have an even longer way to the bottom - South Florida and Las Vegas are headed a long, long way down.  That decline is just beginning to start because owners and investors haven't quite woken up to the new reality - sooner or later they will.  Suburban markets are also in for a long tumble.

The places that will hold up best are urban markets where supply is limited in major creative/ super-star centers - largely as a result of global demand for those properties.  NYC - that is Manhattan - will hold up best, but San Fran, urban DC, urban Boston, Seattle and the like will weather the storm better than most predict. 

One thing that is likely to come out of this, as Clive Crook and Tim Hartford are on to, is the reversal of the long shift toward homeownership. It will become clearer and clearer to individuals how inflexible home-ownership is especially during downturns in the market.  Leasing will start to comeback, not just among the working poor and middle class; it's resurgence will be led in luxury markets by the reasonably well-to-do, who will not want to get caught in this kind of bind again.  And with the market stuck in the pits, they'll have a plethora of great rentals to choose from.

December 28, 2007

Click here, ugh.

December 27, 2007

Richard Florida

Turning Blue

Two of America's leading political analysts, John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira have an intriguing op-ed piece in Sunday's Washington Post (must have missed it while traveling) on the demographic, economic and geographic trends they believe will lead to a new Democratic majority.

[T]here are professionals, once the most Republican of all occupational groups. In 1960, they backed Nixon over JFK by 61 percent to 38. But as professionals -- including nurses, teachers and actors as well as doctors, scientists and engineers -- have become a larger proportion of the workforce (about 7 percent in the 1950s, and about 17 percent today), they have turned decidedly blue. In the four presidential elections from 1988 to 2000, professionals backed Democrats by an average of 52 percent to 40 percent. The reason: Professionals typically used to see themselves as pro-business entrepreneurs, but by the 1990s, most had become salaried workers, wary of big corporations and the untrammeled free market. ...

One key to this shift has been the development of post-industrial metropolitan areas -- places that combine city and suburb, that are devoted to the production of ideas and services, and that act as powerful magnets for precisely the professionals and minorities who are most likely to vote Democratic. These areas include greater Los Angeles (which now employs more entertainment workers than aerospace ones), Seattle, Chicago, Boston and even Austin in Bush's home state. Call them ideopolises, and color them bright blue.

On one level, they're onto something. The rise of the creative economy and the creative class is coincident with the rise of what Ronald Inglehart calls post-materialist values and politics.  And large metropolitan areas do skew heavily blue. But it's a great leap of faith to conclude this will lead to lasting majority of either party. That's because neither of them has come anywhere near embracing those post-materialist values. The way I see it we're in a period of simultaneous polarization and dealignment - with lots of "true believers" on the one hand and lots and lots of others who are disillusioned with the process, parties and candidates. I tried to map this out a couple of years ago in this paper with Jerry Mayer - while it's a bit dated, the gist of the analysis still holds up fairly well.

If you asked me who will win today, my guess is Mike Huckabee for three reasons - he comes across as a regular guy, he is relatively undefined in the popular mind, and he's a governor. Plus he lost weight, hunts and, plays the bass - more evidence he's a regular guy - sort of a cross between the old Bill Clinton, John Madden, and Dr. Phil.  And, if we use the simple but effective "congress people never win rule" that means none of the Democratic candidates - Clinton, Obama or Edwards will win, and the next president will be either Romney, Guiliani, or Huckabee.  The first two are self-destructing in real time, while Huckabee is rising. Huckabee is to 2008 what Clinton was to '92 and "W" was to 2000. As for what that means for American politics, have another look at my paper with Mayer. While Huckabee will come across as a "uniter" in the campaign, American politics will veer further away from our scenario 1, and toward some morphing of scenario's 2 and 3. 

My hunch is that of the major candidates only Obama can set in motion dynamics that would put the US back on course toward scenario 1.  But I am not so sure he can win either the Democratic nomination or the general election. Though given what I've just said, I'd be more than happy to be proven wrong on both scores and for Judis and Teixeira to be right.

What say you?

Richard Florida

Pop Pop


Housing prices are down 6.7% for October - the largest decline ever recorded -  according to the new Case/ Shiller data. Only three metros remain positive - Charlotte, Seattle and Portland, Oregon. The hardest hit areas remain speculative markets like Miami and Tampa which lack real economies, Detroit which has suffered an economic body blow and San Diego. In these markets, especially South Florida and the Rustbelt, the carnage is far from over (Chart via Seeking Alpha).

Richard Florida

Happiness and the City

It's more complicated than you think according to this great little essay in The Walrus magazine's Cities issue (pointer via Where Blog). BTW, I'm a huge fan of the Walrus, which if you didn't know it already, is literary magazine from Toronto - sort of similar to the New Yorker or the Atlantic.