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November 26, 2007

Richard Florida

Creative Feedback

« India and China | Main | Class and the Democratic Primaries »

Saturday's column is attracting lots of attention. My quick perusal reveals that it was the 4th most e-mailed and the 11th most popular as of Sunday.

It's recieved a ton of comments and feedback especially over at the Globe and Mail, here.  Around the blogsphere, here's what Mark Kuznicki, Peter Gordon (Peter I'll be digging into the issues of labor and real estate markets you mention in Who's Your City?), and Steve at the Most Important Element have to say. I also recieved a ton of e-mails which is great - some samples after the jump.

I value criticism and find that I learn the most from my critics. So let me respond to the two main lines of criticism surfacing here. The first is something I've grown used to, another round of hemming and hawing about gays and growth, including someone who actually links to an old article by Steven Malanga that has been throroughly debunked, here and here. For those so inclined, here is a longish paper with Kevin Stolarick and Charlotta Mellander where we dig into competing theories of what drives economic development.

The second line of criticism is more interesting. It zeros in on what some see as an alledged dichtomy between my theory of the creative class and the notion that every single human being is creative. Actually these constructs are not at odds at all, rather they are one in the same.  Right now 35-40 percent of us have the good fortune to work in occupations where we are paid to do creative and at times fulfilling work.  That does not mean than the rest of us are not creative. Rather, the key is to continuously expand the boundaries of the"creative class" by tapping and harnessing this untapped resevoir of creativity. The creative class is the first class that is a universal one, meaning that it can extend to a much broader segement of the population. This is a central issue of class analysis, and one that vexed Marx among others (who saw the proletariat as a universal class). It's something I've been thinking about since graduate school. I outline this in both Rise and Flight. In the preface to the Australian edition of Rise, Terry Cutler sees my contribution on this score quite clearly, writing that my most fundamental idea is that the key to economic prosperity lies in "stoking the creative furnace that lies deep within every human being."  An abdridged version of my thinking on the matter is here.

Your opening passages in your recent column struck a chord: Like yourself, I would spend the odd Saturday with my dad at a local chemical local factory in Toronto that he worked out of. Recalling those days, I was quite in awe of how my father, an Italian immigrant with limited formal education, rose to a senior professional level in a very complex industry. Most telling for me was how he would describe with pride the times he was invited to participate in project teams that were mandated to solve major technical problems and identify efficiency gains. My father, much like yours, was a bit of an artist himself, and I knew how important it was for him to feel that he was making a contribution beyond the day-to-day. Personal histories aside, I think that you have tapped into a very important facet of economic performance, especially in this era, that of broader engagement of all of our ‘creative class’. I spent most of my post-graduate work exploring the link between more open, participatory work forms (now termed ‘engagement’) and economic performance. From a macro perspective, as you’ve cited in the case of Japan, there appears to be a strong relationship between mobilizing knowledge and intelligence and economic performance. However, the lack of interest in pursuing this more broadly in the US and Canada is a bit puzzling. There are examples of firms doing a better job at leveraging the creative potential of most of its people, but these are likely the exceptions. From my experiences in the private sector, not-for-profit, and more recently in the public sector, we seem to be missing out on this opportunity. With a projected shortage of key skills in the coming years, we will no doubt be hearing more about the dilemma around innovation deficits. The richness in perspectives and thinking that can be better tapped into from our existing workforce seems to be a way to partially address this gap.  There is an incredible range of creativity in our progressively more diverse population, especially in the GTA, that I am absolutely convinced will be a critical to our future success, and I hope to be able to steward some of these opportunities. I will definitely stay tuned. Thanks for your insights.

I've been a huge fan of your work for the past couple of years, because of your support of creative pursuits but also because of something that you articulated in your weekend article where you argued that creativity is NOT limited to a small group.  I have friends who are singers and writers and as someone who has always been known for my creativity - I've gotten into arguments with them wherein I've argued that the reason I've been so successful in my career is because I've been able to add creative flair to an office. Athough I've only had desk jobs my modus operandi in each organization has aways been an attempt to try and inject a bit of creativity into my job and organization. 

I read with interest over the summer about your arrival in Toronto, our luring of you from the U.S. to U of T and most recently, your first articles/ impressions in the Globe. Delighted to read your article this weekend on creativity. I'm sure that as part of your early orientation of the city, you will have read the recent reports about the new mapping of diabetes and how Toronto is the epicentre of the disease, seemingly worldwide. Also, its links to urban design and poverty.  It would be wonderful is you could apply some of your creative expertise to this multi-facited challenge.

I enjoyed your column in Saturday's GLOBE AND MAIL. on creative energy.  I think you're quite correct that every person, whatever his/her job or state in life, has creative potential, and that a society greatly restricts its collective possibilities when it envisages this potential as limited to people with advanced educations.  Perhaps you're already familiar with the work of Bernard Lonergan, but I'll flag it here just to make sure.  Lonergan is a prominent Canadian philosopher/theologian who died in 1984.  ... The best-known of these works is INSIGHT: A STUDY OF HUMAN UNDERSTANDING, first published in 195 ...The book begins with Aristotle's claim that to be human is to be curious.  Lonergan then delineates various forms of the "insights" that satisfy this curiosity (though always just partly, since no answer ever makes all questioning cease).  Chapters 6 and 7 are devoted to "common sense" (by contrast with "theoretical") questions and insights; and I when I read your column, I immediately thought of it as an excellent illustration of what Lonergan discusses in those chapters.  I mention the chapters in case you would ever find it useful to have a philosophical study that backs up in great detail the points you were making on Saturday. ... FYI, Lonergan and Jane Jacobs were mutual admirers.


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Michael Wells

This post and the Democratic primary post on college and class, clicked and made me realize something. Most of the Creative Class occupations (see below) require a BA or more as a ticket for admission - the "bohemians" being an obvious exception. Not just that you need the knowledge, but that you need the diploma to be allowed into the profession. This certainly ties into the higher income for college grads statistic, but may be problematic for society's realizing the creative potential of every person.

If we are to start recognizing and rewarding creativity in other areas/professions (hair salons, machine shops, etc.) we have to get around this academic prejudice. But a lot of society is organized on the assumption that a college degree is a valid measure of worth. Just as we need to rethink public education at a core level, this will take more than superficial tinkering.

Super-Creative Core
• Computer and mathematical occupations
• Architecture and engineering occupations
• Life, physical and social science occupations
• Education, training and library occupations
• Arts. design, entertainment, sports and media occupations (Florida’s “Bohemians”).

Creative Professionals
• Management occupations
• Business and financial operations occupations
• Legal occupations
• Healthcare practitioners and technical occupations
• High-end sales and sales management

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