Competing for the creative class

I went to the Cities of Knowledge conference in Dublin, at the historic Clontarf Castle, to give a talk on citizen use of government data. But I would say that the man of the hour was Richard Florida. His theory about the economic and social impact of what he calls the creative class was repeatedly invoked by the technologists, officials, and academics who were at this conference to discuss the future of IT-enabled cities.

The gist of Florida’s thinking, which you can catch at ITConversations if you are not inclined to read the book1, is that a vibrant creative culture — where creativity is very broadly defined to include scientists, technologists, entrepeneurs, artists, musicians, and others — has become the defining reason why cities, regions, and countries succeed.

If you buy into that notion, and the attendees from Barcelona, Derry, Dublin, Helsinki, San Jose, Tallinn, and elsewhere very much did, it leads to an interesting conclusion. Cities have always competed with one another to provide attractive business climates. Quality of life was an aspect of the competition, but incentives to businesses were what really mattered.

A point made at this conference, though, is that the creative class values place above employer. To a 25-year-old European marketing or software professional, the choice of Barcelona over some less desirable city is now more decisive than the choice between working for IBM or Microsoft.

You still need to make your city attractive to IBM and Microsoft, because these companies help create and sustain the quality-of-life conditions that attract the creative class. But companies don’t have a direct interest in those conditions, people do.

It was fascinating to see how these cities are now thinking explicitly about competing — in terms of their housing, transportation, safety, culture, and IT enablement — to attract the creative class. Success produces a compound benefit, because the creative class is an engine of prosperity. Not only does it spend money, it also germinates new businesses. And those tend to be just the kinds of businesses that appeal to the creative class, so it can become a virtuous cycle.

Is it elitist to focus on the needs of the creative class? I don’t think so. Every citizen cares about housing, transportation, safety, culture, and IT enablement. If cities do better in those areas in order to attract the creative class, everybody wins.


1 Can this really be a good thing for the book business? Based on the number of books I have not read after catching the author’s drift in an extended audio interview or lecture, I do wonder.

7 Comments

  1. Jon,
    My experience has been that some quantum level of creativity must exist in the community before an investment in the infrastructure will produce a growth in the creative community. Compare the two communities of Keene, NH and Peterborough.

    I have no idea of how this initial seed is established. Must be a convergence of Earth energy lines
    ;-) [Where logic fails, mysticism fills in.]
    -ben

  2. Re interviews competing with book reading…

    think most (NonFiction) books are too Fat (FatBook). Perhaps the future is a ThinBook in print with HyperBook for detail?

    Also, is the goal of WritingABook only/mainly to have people read the book, or to spread the ideas within the book? Perhaps the book is just an anchor for a looser ConversatIon.

    Of course, this doesn’t cover the issue of how you get paid for that ConversatIon. But people like DaveWiner and HughMacLeod always point out that they MakeMoney *because of* their WebLog-s, but not *from* their blogs. Similarly, RichardFlorida makes some nice change from his speaking fees, etc. (And lots of books get bought but not read…).

    http://webseitz.fluxent.com/wiki/z2007-11-27-UdellSummaryVsBook

  3. To follow up on Bill’s thought, The Rise of the Creative Class is at least three times longer than it needs to be, and it is not alone in needing some serious editing.

  4. The book industry seems to go to what I call Tombstone Format every now and again; trade paperbacks that are as larger or larger than hardbacks, with huuuuge white margins and huuuuge prices. But celebrity writers like JKR don’t get edited (line up the Harry Potters on the shelf and guess at which point she stopped accepting being edited for more than mis-spellings). Here I could rant about how editors are a valuable resource (even though I’m not an editor any more).

  5. Barack Obama : leader of the CREATIVE CLASS.
    L’ idea e la prassi di sviluppo della “CREATIVE CLASS” e’ stata l’ artefice della vitttoria di barack Obama da oggi 05/NOV/08 e’ divenuto Presidente degli USA .
    La “Creative Class” e’ infatti la nuova classe dirigente fatta di gente che antepone le emozioni alla pura razionalita e che pertanto sa gestire le conoscenze in una ampia condivisione dei saperi.
    La “Creative Class” si basa sulla capacita di fare rete e di coordinare persone aventi comuni interessi sociali ed economici in maniera abile per gestire il flussi di informazione condivisa, lavorando sia come lavoratori non dipendenti, che di manager ed imprenditori delle conoscenze innovativa.
    Di conseguenza la vittoria odierna di Barack Obama in USA, non e’ direttamente imputabile alle gerarchie di partito ovvero ad una coalizione di gruppi di potere , ma alla capacita di realizzare “down-top” una nuova concezione del lavoro fondata su un nuovo proficuo rapporto contemporaneo tra lavoro materiale di tipo industriale ed il lavoro immateriale , guidato della ricerca scientifica e le varie forme di arte, nell’ insieme capaci di essere comunicate “on line”, proprio in quanto scienza ed umanesimo vengono finalizzate ad un nuova tipologia dello sviluppo globale della societa’ della conoscenza. Il fattore cruciale della formazione della nuova “Creative Class” consiste nella capacita di organizzare il lavoro non piu come lavoro dipendente in modo che ciascun lavoratore , manager ovvero imprenditore possa esprimere la propria “virtualità intelligente” in una aperta condivisione basata su una comunicazione sempre piu’ interattiva e concordata sulla base della sottoscrizione di identiche ed identificabili finalita’ evolutive di un comune sviluppo economico e sociale.
    Purtroppo viviamo in un paese l’ Italia, ingessato dalla politica di chi non si vuol mai fare da parte , che per mantenere privilegi e strutture di potere gerarchizzate , ha preferito basare l’ economia sulla precarietà e su nuovi e coercitivi rapporti di basso sfruttamento dei lavoratori della conoscenza .
    Attualmente in pochi ,come noi di EGOCREANET http://www.egocreanet.it e amici di EGOCREANET , abbiamo assunto volutamente una nuova identita e cosciente di appartenenza alla Classe Creativa , capace di auto-organizzazione interattiva, proprio in quanto fondata sul libero lavoro creativo, condiviso tramite la aggregazione in rete, anziche sull’ appoggio di istituzioni tradizionali e di qualsiasi apporto di indole gerarchica. E ‘ pertanto evidente la mia e la nostra felicita e speranza che la Leadership di Barack Obama in USA possa essere un buon auspicio per realizzare anche nella nostra Italia un profondo cambiamento , come propone con grande saggezza e lungimiranza il nostro Presidente della Repubblica Giorgio Napolitano .
    Paolo Manzelli 05/NOV/2008 Firenze.

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