Sunday, June 15, 2014

Creativity crisis?

In this month's HBR, Richard Florida makes his case for "America's Looming Creativity Crisis". (His article also provides a nice basis for a follow-up book to The Rise of the Creative Class.)

It's great to see Florida bringing more attention to those who create new ideas. However, he skirts some hard questions:

  • Who is part of the Creative Class really?

    Florida uses professions most of the time -- the obvious clumping of scientists, artists, professors, etc. In this article, Florida is undecided about where technicians fit in, but these individuals do help him expand his data set. Additional confusion stems from the belief that the creative ones follow lifestyle more than career (which fits my observations), but then this raises the question about the accuracy of Florida's categories that are based on standard career choices.

  • What is the overlap between the Creative Class and foreigners?

    Florida states that 30% of the US workforce (38 million) constitute the Creative Class, and 11% of the US population is foreign-born (30 million). He also cites Saxenian's data that measures foreign nationality in Silicon Valley, which makes a convincing case for foreign talent. I wonder how Florida gauges the creative potential of foreigners; are immigrants more likely to be creators? As an interesting example, when I completed my study of startups in Switzerland, the numbers showed that nearly 1/3 were created by foreigners.

  • What if creators don't use location to define themselves?

    Florida defines creative brain drain (or gain) in terms of location -- for example, Ireland and Belgium have the greatest percentage of creative workers (in terms of overall workforce) than other cities. I suspect that the leading Creative Class members create their own spaces anywhere -- like Florida, who just moved from Pittsburgh, Penn., to Fairfax, VA (both rated low on his Creative Class Index). In addition, nearly all of the individuals Florida mentions could have created new ideas anywhere in the world, and the US just happened to provide the best opportunity. The better question may be to understand how countries can support mobile creators, who move themselves (and their ideas) freely, versus identifying the biggest "creative" cities. For instance, which country owns Tyler Brule? He works in London, lives in Zurich, summers in Scandinavian, and owns a Canadian passport.
Overall, Florida raises some provocative questions about how we support those who create new ideas. Might this lead to a resurgence in Gifted and Talented programs in the U.S.?

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