The Rise of the Creative Class

Looking into creativity

Creativity plays a vital role in economic development and in ways that we still do not fully appreciate. This has so often been overlooked in an analytically minded world that we really need to stop and think about this.

New thinking is necessary to shift out of old paradigms but for this to happen, we need to nurture and appreciate that creative class of people who have the passion and ability to generate innovation and growth.

The following are excerpts taken from an article by Richard Florida, a professor of regional economic development at Carnegie Mellon University. This article was adapted from his forthcoming book, The Rise of the Creative Class: and How Its Transforming Work.

Characteristics of the Creative Class
Members of the creative class do a wide variety of work in a wide variety of industries-from technology to entertainment, journalism to finance, high-end manufacturing to the arts.

They do not consciously think of themselves as a class. Yet they share a common ethos that values creativity, individuality, difference, and merit.

The distinguishing characteristic of the creative class is that its members engage in work whose function is to “create meaningful new forms.”

The super-creative core of this new class includes scientists and engineers, university professors, poets and novelists, artists, entertainers, actors, designers, and architects, as well as the “thought leadership” of modern society: nonfiction writers, editors, cultural figures, think-tank researchers, analysts, and other opinion-makers.

Members of this super-creative core produce new forms or designs that are readily transferable and broadly useful-such as designing a product that can be widely made, sold and used; coming up with a theorem or strategy that can be applied in many cases; or composing music that can be performed again and again.

Beyond this core group, the creative class also includes “creative professionals” who work in a wide range of knowledge-intensive industries such as high-tech sectors, financial services, the legal and healthcare professions, and business management.

Multi-disciplinary Creative Problem-Solving
These people engage in creative problem-solving, drawing on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems. Doing so typically requires a high degree of formal education and thus a high level of human capital. People who do this kind of work may sometimes come up with methods or products that turn out to be widely useful, but it’s not part of the basic job description.

What they are required to do regularly is think on their own. They apply or combine standard approaches in unique ways to fit the situation, exercise a great deal of judgment, perhaps try something radically new from time to time.

Adding Creative Value
These people contribute more than intelligence or computer skills. They add creative value. Firms and organizations value it for the results that it can produce and individuals value it as a route to self-expression and job satisfaction. Bottom line: As creativity becomes more valued, the creative class grows. These talented and creative people are the sort of people who power innovation and growth.

Creative People seek an Environment open to Differences
Many highly creative people, regardless of ethnic background or sexual orientation, grew up feeling like outsiders, different in some way from most of their schoolmates. When they are sizing up a new company and community, acceptance of diversity is a sign that reads “non-standard people welcome here.”

The creative class people I study use the word “diversity” a lot, but not to press any political hot buttons.

Diversity is simply something they value in all its manifestations. This is spoken of so often, and so matter-of-factly, that I take it to be a fundamental marker of creative class values.

Creative-minded people enjoy a mix of influences. They want to hear different kinds of music and try different kinds of food. They want to meet and socialize with people unlike themselves, trade views and spar over issues.

As with employers, visible diversity serves as a signal that a community embraces the open meritocratic values of the creative age. The most highly valued options were experiential ones-interesting music venues, neighborhood art galleries, performance spaces, and theaters.

A vibrant, varied nightlife was viewed by many as another signal that a city “gets it,” even by those who infrequently partake in nightlife.

More than anything, the creative class craves real experiences in the real world. They favor active, participatory recreation over passive, institutionalized forms. They prefer indigenous street-level culture-a teeming blend of cafes, sidewalk musicians, and small galleries and bistros, where it is hard to draw the line between performers and spectators.

They crave stimulation, not escape. They want to pack their time full of dense, high-quality, multidimensional experiences. Seldom has one of my subjects expressed a desire to get away from it all. They want to get into it all, and do it with eyes wide open.

Creative class people value active outdoor recreation very highly. They are drawn to places and communities where many outdoor activities are prevalent-both because they enjoy these activities and because their presence is seen as a signal that the place is amenable to the broader creative lifestyle.

New organizational and cultural patterns required
Places that grow up and prosper in one era, Olson argued, find it difficult and often times impossible to adopt new organizational and cultural patterns, regardless of how beneficial they might be. Consequently, innovation and growth shift to new places, which can adapt to and harness these shifts for their benefit.

The cultural and attitudinal norms of that age became so powerfully ingrained in these places that they did not allow the new norms and attitudes associated with the creative age to grow up, diffuse and become generally accepted. This process, in turn, stamped out much of the creative impulse, causing talented and creative people to seek out new places where they could more readily plug in and make a go of it.

Most experts and scholars have not even begun to think in terms of a creative community. Instead, they tend to try to emulate the Silicon Valley model which author Joel Kotkin has dubbed the “nerdistan.” But the nerdistan is a limited economic development model, which misunderstands the role played by creativity in generating innovation and economic growth.


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