Archive for November, 2006

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Thu Nov 30th 2006 at 9:21pm UTC

Go Jersey

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

Jersey is my home state and Newark my original hometown, so I was more than intrigued by this post by  Craig Schoonmaker over at Newark USA.  Craig is writing in response to my oped with Gary Gates in last Sunday’s Daily News on how New Jersey’s recent court decision on gay unions could tip the scales in the state’s favor. Schoonmaker, creator of the term "gay pride"  is a transplant from Manhattan to Newark.

"Manhattan has long atracted gay men from all over the world. I
myself left New Jersey for Manhattan in 1965, and stayed there for 35
years until the crammed-jammed, frazzled existence of that overcrowded
and increasingly expensive island propelled me back to New Jersey,
where I have SPACE and TREES and FLOWERS in a semi-suburban part of Newark a half hour car ride from the Village. Now, in addition to the push of overcrowding and high expenses of all kinds in Manhattan, New Jersey could also benefit from the pull of a society even more tolerant than New York, where they can actually marry
and enjoy the economic security of being able to pool their resources
to buy a house…"

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Wed Nov 29th 2006 at 9:53pm UTC

Talent, spikes and firms

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

From the brilliant John Hagel at Edge Perspectives:

"In a perverse way, geographic spikes and firms face opposite
challenges.  As spikes form and achieve critical mass, network effects
begin to take over and a virtuous cycle emerges – the more people that
participate in the spike, the more valuable the spike becomes as a
source of talent development.  In contrast, the larger the firm
becomes, the more difficult it is to sustain high growth rates and the
more likely that inertial forces will take over and limit the potential
for talent development, setting in motion a vicious cycle – talent
tends to leave to seek out more hospitable homes and growth slows even
further.  The winners in the global economy will be the firms that can
find ways to break this vicious cycle and harness network effects for
talent development both within and across firms." More

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Wed Nov 29th 2006 at 9:43pm UTC

Class analysis gets classy

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

My "most outlandish critic" has a new post on her site which is mighty interesting. Seems like there might be room even for some common ground.

The heart of the issue seems to be this: How does my construct of the creative
class differ from earlier, influential
constructs like the "professional-middle class" outlined by social
theorists like Erik Olin Wright among others? What do I add?  Let me start by saying my own work owes a huge debt to this earlier line of thinking as well as by constructs like Peter
Drucker’s "knowledge workers" and Robert Reich’s "symbolic

As it just so happens, the debate over class has been at the heart of
my own interests since my undergraduate days at Rutgers. I wrote my
first essays on this in the late 70s.

Marx viewed class in relation to the means of production, while Weber saw class more as status groups. While I lean to Marx’s view on this, I always found the canonical marxian duality of bourgeoisie and proletariat failed to capture the dynamics of modern "post-industrial" or "post-fordist" society.  In fact, even during Marx’s time, he recognized these two classes, not as the only two classes, but as the ascendant and therefore "revolutionary" classes–the ones driving the progress of history. Marx, I should also point out, also noted in the Grundrisse that science can and does enter into the economy as a direct productive force as intellectual labor, which the great economic historian Nathan Rosenberg has written on.

I felt ever since graduate school that a new kind of economy or mode of production and thus a new kind of class structure was emerging.  It took me a while though, a long while to begin to put my finger on it. I was always interested in the schism between intellectual and manual labor, something that theorists like Harry Braverman had identified, though mainly in the context of the seperation of the two and the "de-skilling" of factory workers.   At the time and since, I was also very influenced by the European "regulationist" school of political economy whose leading theorists were trying to elaborate not just the "crisis" of fordist mass production, but what was likely to come after in the shift to "post-fordist" production structures. I wrote a lot on this with Martin Kenney as we tried to analyze and compare the US "breakthrough system" of Silicon Valley high-technology, which was and is very good at harnessing intellectual labor in the form of high end innovation, to the Japanese "follow-though" system which was and is very good at harnessing the intellectual labor of shop-floor workers ala the Toyota production system. 

All the while, I never found the simple-minded, un-economic, and ahistorical construct of the service economy very useful, mainly because it cannot specify an underlying source of value creation. Agricultural or feudal production was based on land and physical labor. Industrial production based on technology, raw materials and manual labor.  What is the service economy based on?  The concept of the service economy, as Kenney and I long ago argued, lumps together things like software production which can and does animate real production processes with activities like hamburger flipping. The professional-managerial class is the class analysis equivalent to the service economy. Neither specify where real value comes from–the driving force which animates the economy and society.

What was the new production system that was replacing industrial/ fordist capitalism: what was its motor force, its inner dynamic? To answer this question, I found myself trying to come to grips with a new and more innovative post-fordist system based increasingly on the mobilization of intellectual labor in technological innovation, in design and on the factory floor as well. What was the driving force, what was the common unifying element across the board?

Then one day it hit me:  Marx had long said that what made the proletariat a universal class was its role in an inter-subjective or social production system–the fact that workers can’t make stuff alone, they are all part of an extended division of labor. We all need one another to make things and survive.

But it is not manual labor that binds us together, really; it’s our capacity to think, our capacity for knowledge, our intellectual labor. In fact, even Marx had said as much.  And then it hit me:  It’s really something more. It’s our creativity.

Thus the two core precepts of my theory. One, every single human being is creative. And two, creativity does not conform to the social categories our history has imposed on us. It is ubiquitous and comes equally in both genders, all nationalities and ethnicities, all sexual orientations. It really doesn’t care about your skin color, or national origin, or gender, or how rich your parents are, or what kind of family you grew up in or care to create for yourself. It is creativity that is intrinsically human, that cuts across our imposed divides, that is the universalizing element so to speak. 

So that’s the backdrop for my writing about the creative class. Don’t get confused by the backs and forths about  artists and hipsters, amenities and sexual orientation, though those things can and do play a role.

At bottom, my theory is about the emergence of a new economic system and a new class who’s fundamental relationship to the economy is human creativity. Creativity today, like manual labor and industrial production under industrial capitalism, is the primary generator of economic value.

All of this leads me to the great conundrum of the creative economy. Even though every single human being is creative, only about a third of the workforce works in occupations where they are expected and paid to use even a modicum of their creativity.  Thus, the great challenge of society is to expand the structures of the creative economy to tap and harness the creativity of much larger segments of the workforce in the service and manufacturing sectors alike. At bottom, all of us are creative beings and thus all are potential participants in the creative economy.  How to extend and include these creative talents, this creative energy?

And this in turn leads to an even greater contradiction.  The full flourishing of creativity comes smack up against the old and tired institutions of industrial capitalism–the nation-state, an outmoded industrial structure, rigid political institutions, corporate bureaucracies which treat people like machines or worse, an antiquated system of intellectual property protection. 

Thanks to my outlandish critic for bringing these issues to the fore.  How to ignite a broader conversation over these, the fundamental issues, of our time?

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Wed Nov 29th 2006 at 8:07pm UTC

Creative Singapore, Creative China

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

Via our great friend Steve Dahlberg’s Applied Imagination blog, this:

Creative industries forum kicks off in Singapore [27 November 2006 - People's Daily Online - China] "A global forum for creative industries, Beyond 2006, one of a series of events of month-long Creative 2006 programs to showcase and promote Singapore’s creative sector, was kicked off in Singapore Monday. "Many countries see the creative industries as a key competitive advantage in the globalized economy. Ideas and imagination have become valuable assets and drivers of economic opportunities and growth," Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, said at the opening ceremony of the forum. "Singapore cannot be any different," he
said, adding "We must harness creativity and the power of innovation to forge ahead in a globalized economy." More

And this: Pressing need for creative economy [27 November 2006 - China Daily]
"First there was the "new economy," then there was the "knowledge economy," and now we have the "creative economy." Call it what you will, but the nation is arguably attaching more importance to "chuangyi" (creativity) to restructure its economy. In big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, massive material and political resources have been devoted to what leaders term "Chuangyi jingji" (creative economy) as a key strategic element for advancing the cities’ development." More

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Wed Nov 29th 2006 at 7:18pm UTC

Creative Barcelona

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

First Paris tries to woo the creative class, now this update on Barcelona’s, arguably the world’s most beautiful city, on its efforts to bolster creativity and innovation, via Bruno Giusanni’s blog. Bruno writes: "Francesc Santacana is the coordinator of the strategic plan for the metropolitan area
of Barcelona – a network of 36 cities with about 3 million inhabitants.
…"We have been shifting from
an orderly structured and designed urban model of the industrial era to
a more or less chaotic space, occupied in an erratic way, with a rather
blurred logic and in which multiple economic activities, cultures and
values coehixt", says Francesc.

He and his colleagues have read Richard Florida, for their top goal is to "generate, attract and retain creative and innovative talent".
Promoting infrastructures is only a part of this, of course. Much more
important is to promote the right kind of infrastructures, to properly
re-design both the city and the ways it can foster interaction and
"fecundation"… "

Read the rest here.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Wed Nov 29th 2006 at 4:16pm UTC

Space Matters

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

Our first on-the-ground strategy comes from Denver, where the Mayor’s Task
Force on Creative Spaces released this week its plan for addressing the
space needs of its very creative population. From our viewpoint, they
did it right, realizing and addressing "the multi-faceted, complex
subject of creative space – affordability, suitability, availability,
sustainability and the development process" and seeking a variety of solutions. Check out the full report here.

Let us know about more on-the-ground strategies working in your
community. Use the comment space here or send them to
Amanda at We’ll post new strategies for
discussion each Wednesday.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Wed Nov 29th 2006 at 4:15pm UTC

It’s working!

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

We know people all over the world are building creative communities.
It’s an organic process and…we’re all learning. This space can be used
to talk about strategies that really build on regional authenticity AND
create sustainable results. So, let’s hear what’s working – from community projects
to government policy to those magical coming together moments – and why.

Write in about strategies that are working in your
community. Feel free to use the comment space here or send a note to
Amanda at We’ll post new strategies for
discussion each Wednesday.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Wed Nov 29th 2006 at 3:43pm UTC

Universities, the real world, and public intellectuals

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

Dean Schmalensee’s Business Week article has touched off a lively debate among scholars associated with the Sloan Foundation’s Industry Studies Program. While I basically agree, the crux of the problem, to my way of thinking, runs far, far deeper.

Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, Dean of the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations University of Illinois, argues that "it is no accident that we now see increasing debate around business schools taking more of a  problem-centered, interdisciplinary focus.  We are in what Mike Piore  and Chuck Sabel first called "the second industrial divide" — a  period when key institutional arrangements are incompletely matched to markets, technology, and demographics."

I could not agree more. And I would add that just when we need scholars and the academy to generate the large scale ideas and public debate to facilitate and accelerate this "matching" of institutional arrangements to economic, technological and social trends, academe is focusing far too resources on these issues and problems.

These issues cross all manner of subjects and disciplines–from economics and business to urban affairs and geography, public policy and social, cultural and demographic factors. The workplace is being re-organized radically away from the old bureaucratic corporation Alfred Chandler wrote about. The relationship between workers and their managers and tasks is changing. What people expect at work is changing too. Work and production organization are being reshaped; design and creativity have entered the picture in a big way.  Production increasingly takes the form of globe straddling networks. Cities and communities are being reshaped, becoming more specialized economically, occupationally and demographically. We are in the midst of a great migration. Our culture is being radically reshaped. The family itself is being redefined: now more people are single than married, the rise of "urban tribes."  I could go on and on– the list is endless.

One way I like to think about this is the decline of public intellectualism in our universities. Even up to the time Piore and Sabel wrote The Second Industrial Divide a good deal of conversation-setting analysis of social, cultural and economic trends was produced by engaged scholars and public intellectuals operating out of academe. In economics the names are well known; Galbraith, Friedman, Drucker and others;  in sociology people Dan Bell; in political science, Charles Lindbolm and many others.

Sure, there are still academics who are public intellectuals, doing serious research on important problems and writing in a style that engages people across the board. Jared Diamond is illuminating the relationship between nature and social behavior; Robert Putnam on civic engagement; Jeff Sachs on international development; Paul Krugman on macro-economics. But there could be, and should be, a lot more.

The shortage of public intellectuals, I believe, poses big costs for society. Stanford University’s Paul Romer, one of our leading students of economic growth, paraphrasing Keynes a great public intellectual himself, always says that what really powers economic and social advance are meta-ideas. If academe is not producing enough public intellectuals: where will these meta-ideas come from?

The answer is simple: The vacuum is being filled by the rise of entrepreneurial journalists, the David Brooks and Tom Friedmans of the world. Great writers, able to pen compelling stories, but far less great on tracking large-scale social trends.  Virtually all of the serious non-fiction editors I know at big publishing houses have told me personally that they are seeing far fewer proposal from academics; that the proposals they do see are not nearly as compelling; and that their portfolios are shifting away from academics and toward journalists. Without the ability to track and parse long term trends (and dare I say data-sets), these journalistic public intellectuals that can provide compelling snapshots of the moment, but have far more difficulty shedding real light on the dramatic social and economic changes that face us. In fact, lacking these skills, they are likely to distort the picture and color the popular debate in ways that obscure important aspects of the problems facing society.

Why would this shift away from the university be taking place? The problems are big. And universities say they want more such people. So why aren’t we producing more of the kinds of public intellectuals needed to produce these meta-ideas?

There are many, many reasons. Believe it or not, it’s hard to fund meta-ideas.  Public funding organizations like the National Science Foundation focus the bulk of their resources on science and engineering, funding in the social and behavioral sciences tends to go toward smaller-scale, disciplinary problems in the social sciences. Large philanthropy has its hands full making practical impact, and finds it harder and harder to justify large grants for intellectual capital.  Universities tend to spread their own money around.

Another part of the problem is that being a public intellectual is difficult work. Getting an oped published in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, I have come personally to understand, is hard slogging, harder at least for me than publishing in leading academic journals. Writing a compelling book for a trade publisher, that has a strong narrative argument that can appeal to relatively large numbers of people, is also more difficult, again for me, then writing research findings aimed at professional peers.   

This is made all the more difficult by a university environment which tends to look askance on public intellectualism. Despite what is said, there are sizable obstacles in front of academics who would like to do public intellectual work. Too many departments continue to suggest that public intellectual work is "journalistic," "shallow" or worse; direct graduate students away from them; or say it’s more important to stay on campus and engage with peers and students than it is to travel to engage public audiences.

How to solve the problem?  Let me venture some ideas.  One possibility is that universities make better use of the
division of labor in their use of personnel–some are better teachers;
some better researchers; some better engagers. Why not adjust their
workloads and expectations?

A Carnegie Commission report redefined what academics do as discovery,
learning and engagement, as opposed to the traditional, research,
teaching, and service. Why not give academics credit for "engaging"
broader audiences? Why not "teaching credit" for
educating beyond the university? Why not use distance learning and new
educational technology to disseminate their ideas?
The idea of making public intellectuals Deans and administrators is simply ludicrous; their value is in their ability to generate and focus energy around meta-ideas.

Still another is that we build new capacity around nimble institutes that engage across disciplines and  capacities around pressing problems. The model I have in mind here is the National Institutes of Health, which bring science to bear on diseases. This could enable some serious massing of resources around pressing social and economic issues. But these institutes need to provide real support for public intellectuals who are working on big problems and meta-ideas. The funds can’t be used to promote business, or should I say research, as usual.

Most of all the universities have to commit to supporting public intellectuals, and by this I mean more than just paying their salaries. We need to actively leverage, not isolate, them and their activities. 

It also means building real programs around their real-world interests. Take my own area of regional and urban economic development. Most universities say this is an important problem area. Most say they are in fact active contributors to regional development through technology innovation, technology transfer, spinoff companies and what not. But how many have tried to build real academic programs in this area– programs with real support, real financial backing and aimed to generate new knowledge. Many of the truly great universities lack any such programs. But what better laboratory to understand social, economic and cultural change, and the role of the university in it.

I’ll end with a comment from Jane Jacobs, one of the leading public intellectuals of the 20th century. When I asked her why she never joined a university, despite many offers, she said simply: "How could I do work on interesting real-world problems there?"

I would love to know what you think about this, and what might be done?

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Wed Nov 29th 2006 at 2:46pm UTC

Putting the B in B-schools

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

This Business Week piece by MIT Sloan School Dean, Richard Schmalensee is very, very interesting:

"To our critics, including many successful  managers, business schools have become little more than exercises in ticket punching for would-be
consultants, taught by faculty who are more interested in impressing their academic colleagues than in confronting real-world business problems. Although overstated, this caricature has a grain of truth. …[M]anagement school faculty often focus on academic fields such as game theory or econometrics, not on management practice, and their work may have little to do with real business problems. … Critics charge that such faculty (some who may not even know or care much about business) can teach business students little or nothing about how to actually manage–in other words, to accomplish things with
and through other people. …Unfortunately, under the current academic reward system, what matters
most is having an impact among peers, mainly by getting specialized research published in influential journals. … Even after faculty get lifetime tenure, if they veer from the traditional academic path, they will likely lose stature within the academy. Few have a strong enough ego not to care. At the core of
management school criticism, then, is a fundamental mismatch: the academic system’s current methods for hiring and rewarding professors don’t necessarily attract or encourage the kind of practitioner-oriented faculty we need to make business-school research and MBA education much more attuned to meeting today’s and tomorrow’s management challenges…. Many are willing and anxious to
solve this problem, but, like me, are not quite certain how to do so. … [B]usiness schools’ research agendas must become primarily driven by real-life management problems. But in order for this change to happen, problem-driven research must become recognized and honored as a great way to advance,
not jeopardize, an academic career."

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Wed Nov 29th 2006 at 2:08pm UTC

The gastronomic index

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

I had an interchange today with Zachary Neal, managing editor of the terrific journal, City and Community, and it reminded me of his fascinating paper on "Culinary deserts, gastronomic oases: A classification of US cities" published in January in Urban Studies.

The study looked at all sorts of restaurants from fast food joints, coffee shops and casual dining to ethnic restaurants, elite restaurants and "eatertainment" venues and more across some 245 cities.

His findings: cities cluster across two dimensions: some are "Urbane," while others are "McCulture." "Urbane oases" have a wide and diverse mix of restaurant types. Place like DC, LA, and San Fran, they correlate closely with locations of the creative class. "McCulture oases" are places where the chains outnumber the unique–Phoenix, Columbus, Houston and at least two well known creative centers, ahem…. Raleigh and Austin.  These places Neal says are mainly "nerdistans."

Then there are places which either have a few ethnic restaurants or a few fast food joints. "Urbane deserts" are heavy on older, rebounding suburbs like Arlington, VA; Oakland CA; Bellvue, WA; and Naperville, IL. McCulture deserts (there are lots of them) include Detroit, Little Rock, Kansas City and many, many others.  They are strong social capital communities in the main.

A PDF of the paper is here.

Download neal_2006.pdf