Archive for January, 2007

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Sun Jan 28th 2007 at 4:03pm UTC

Davos vs. Burning Man

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

Grant McCracken
has an interesting post on Davos. Quoting the New York Times he writes that Davos founder Karl Schwab has “managed to keep Davos a hot ticket for three decades by latching on to the latest political and business trends.’ A claim like this gives a guy a certain credibility.  Schwab found a way to create a trend (Davos). And then he found a way to make the trend ride the trends.  These are many and include: the celebrity activitist (Bono, Gabriel); ex-presidents as world leaders (Clinton, Carter, Clinton); the celebrity CEO (Gates, Jobs, endlessly etc.)…”

Taking a page from McCracken, I ran a Google Trends analysis, comparing Davos to other high-profile events like Burning Man, South-by-Southwest, and the Sundance Festival. Looks to me like Robert Redford and movie stars are first, with Davos and Burning Man neck and neck,  and the SXSW rockers pulling up the rear.

Your thoughts?

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Sun Jan 28th 2007 at 1:23pm UTC

Rehabilitating Robert Moses

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

I never thought I would see the day, but here it is:  a glowing New York Times story on three new museum exhibits set to  polish up the image of Robert Moses.  This is the person who bulldozed countless urban neighborhoods, displaced hundreds of thousands of people, starved mass transit while he poured money into highways, and would have paved over Greenwich Village if not for the valiant efforts of a young Jane Jacobs and other urban activists.  When I visited Jane in her Toronto home a few years before her death, she told me of her one meeting with Moses.  It was during hearings over one of his many mega-projects.  After Jacobs finished speaking, Moses, red-faced with anger, hands clenched around the courtroom banister, admonished the entire hearing room: “How in the world can you listen to her? She’s just a mother!”

Here’s what the Times has to say, referencing architectural historian, Hilary Ballon.

Moses deserves better — or at least a fresh look. In three exhibitions
opening in the next few days — at the Museum of the City of New York, the Queens Museum of Art and Columbia University — Ms. Ballon argues that too little attention
has been focused on what Moses achieved, versus what he destroyed, and
on the enormous bureaucratic hurdles he surmounted to get things done.
the city on the brink of a building boom unparalleled since Moses’
heyday — the reconstruction of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, an overhaul
of the Far West Side, sweeping redevelopment downtown — Ms. Ballon and
other scholars argue that his legacy is more relevant than ever.  “Living
in New York, one is aware there has been no evident successor or
successors to Moses,” she said. “There aren’t master builders. Who is
looking after the city? How do we build for the future?” All around New
York State, she suggests, people tend to take for granted the parks,
playgrounds and housing Moses built, now generally binding forces in
those areas, even if the old-style New York neighborhood was of no
interest to Moses himself. And were it not for Moses’ public
infrastructure and his resolve to carve out more space, she argues, New
York might not have been able to recover from the blight and flight of
the 1970s and ’80s and become the economic magnet it is today.”

Read the whole thing here.

But New York’s recent success has little to do with Moses’ disastrous vision. The city and region have succeeded in spite of Moses, coming back because of a combination of economic and structural change, demographic forces, and bottom-up neighborhood rebuilding. In the 1970s, Moses’ disciples like Roger Starr were arguing that the only path to renewal lay in “benign neglect” -  essentially letting vast swatches of the city run so far down that property would become cheap enough to enable another round of top-down rebuilding in the image and likeness of the suburbs.   So now we have this rewriting of history in its most banal form — a “great man” with his “great projects” did it. Come on.

But it’s just what the doctor ordered, really, in booming New York City:  Someone to make the case anew for a new generation of soulless,  top-down, a-human mega-projects, where only the visions of “great” architects, designers, and developers count, where living neighborhoods can be run roughshod over and human beings don’t  matter. It’s as if Jane Jacobs simply did not exist and never wrote her classic critique of such megalomaniacal urbanism, The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

The ever thoughtful Columbia historian Ken Jackson provides the
relevant context:  “A lot of big projects are on the table again, and
it kind of suggests a Moses era without Moses.”  So let’s invite his rehabilitated ghost back to the table. The Times story notes that somehow they’ve managed to bar Moses’ biographer, the Pulitzer prize-winning Robert Caro, from the festivities.

Take heed of the old adage: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” Or as Jane Jacobs apocryphally told me: “When a place gets boring” – as just these sorts of mega-projects  which damp down street-life and human energy will doubtless ensure – “even the rich people leave.”

Beware of what you wish for, New York.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Sun Jan 28th 2007 at 12:50pm UTC

New Texico Rises

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

I’ve spent much of the past week embroiled in intellectual debates with my colleagues in urban sociology and related fields.  So this story in today’s El Paso Times couldn’t have come at a better time. It reminds me that what’s really important is what’s happening on the ground  in real communities.  A much smarter thinker that me once said (and I paraphrase):  The point is not to interpret the world, the point is to change it. I want to send a personal note of gratitude to Joyce Wilson, Angela Mora (pictured here), and our energetic team of change-agents in El Paso,  and especially to my own incredible RFCG team:  Rod Frantz, Amanda
Styron, David Miller and Lou Musante, who are the force behind our contribution to this effort.   As we expand these efforts at community transformation, Veronica Escobar, one of  the young visionary leaders we met in El Paso, will  be helping us in future initiatives around the country as well as continuing to make change happen in New Texico.

development isn’t just about attracting companies; it’s also about
attracting and keeping talented people, and that takes a creative city…. A group of 31 El Pasoans has taken Florida’s
theories to heart, and with the help of the Richard Florida Creativity
Group, based in Washington D.C., are trying to find ways to tap into
this area’s creativity to improve the quality of life here and to
stimulate economic growth. The El Paso group is part of the New
Texico Creative Cities Leadership Project…
El Paso and Tacoma, Wash., are the first
cities to be part of Florida’s Creative Cities Leadership Project. Last
week, Florida’s company announced the start of similar projects in
Tallahassee, Fla., Charlotte, N.C., and Duluth-Superior, Minn.

For more information on the New Texico project, click here.


Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Fri Jan 26th 2007 at 12:01pm UTC

Why Diversity Matters

Friday, January 26th, 2007

Earlier I posted on Scott Page’s new book, The Difference. John Hagel has a nice review over at Edge Perspectives. Scott, a University of Michigan professor and fellow at the Santa Fe Institute,  has a fabulous short piece over at the Center For American Progress, here.

Most people believe that innovation requires smarter people,
better ideas. That premise, though intuitive, omits what may be the
most powerful but least understood force for innovation: Diversity.

Diversity usually calls to mind differences in race, gender,
ethnicity, physical capabilities, and sexual orientation—social or
political differences that at first glance have little to do with
innovation. Yet the key to innovation, in economic terms, resides
inside the heads of people, the more diverse the better. That link may
not be immediately apparent, yet any understanding of innovation’s role
in economic growth must focus on diversity as well as ability.

Do your own experiences and observations jibe with Page’s assessments?

In the stark, crude mathematics of economics, production depends on
capital and labor; increases in either raises economic output, but at a
decreasing rate. Increases in per capita economic output, or economic
growth, therefore depends on raising the level or quality of capital,
or increasing the quality of labor, or ideally doing both
simultaneously. This basic formula explains why macroeconomic theorists
advise governments and companies alike to boost spending on research
and development and education, with perhaps a nod to targeted venture
capital as an additional qualitative spur to economic growth.

Dig deeper into the causes of growth, however, and this simple
explanation comes up short. No increases in the level or quality of
capital or labor map neatly into the invention of the steamboat, the
car, electricity, the vacuum tube, or the iPod. To understand
innovation, we need nuanced, micro-level models that enable us to
unpack its causes.

Let’s start with what we know. The macroeconomic approach to the
problem of innovation considers innovative ability as an asset. This
construction lies at the core of modern endogenous growth theory, in
which the stock of knowledge—like the level of capital or the amount of
labor—can be influenced by individuals, companies, or policymakers.
Optimal growth paths require balancing investments in innovative
ability with investments in capital and labor.

Not only do economies struggle to achieve this proper balance, so do
ecosystems, species, companies, and people. Yet for all the success of
endogenous growth theory, it still leaves us with the micro-level
question of the source of innovations. Countries cannot just throw
money into an innovation fund and expect to reap dividends. In fact,
constructing organizational and institutional structures that encourage
innovative activity has been one of the most vexing problems for
businesses and countries over the past half century.

To understand innovation, we must focus on diversity as well as
ability. A scan of the intellectual landscape as well as of the
policies of successful companies reveals a tacit understanding of
diversity’s role in innovation. George Mason University professor
Richard Florida’s work on the creative class,
The Rise of the Creative Class and The Flight of the Creative Class,
touches on the link between diversity and innovation, as do Yale
University’s Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres in their book and
accompanying website
Why Not? and Some of the
innovation policies of Toyota Motor Corp. and Google Inc. illustrate a
similar understanding that differences in the composition of their work
forces boosts their bottom lines.

To appreciate the full potential of the power of difference,
however, requires opening up the pumpkins. What we find inside people’s
heads is that people possess ways of seeing problems and
solutions—oftentimes different perspectives depending on the kinds of
people viewing particular problems and solutions. People’s perspectives
are accompanied by ways of searching for solutions to problems,
something scientists call heuristics. When confronted with a problem,
people encode their (often quite different) perspectives and then apply
their particular heuristics to locate new, possibly better, solutions.

A person whom we think of as smart is generally someone who has lots
of interesting perspectives and many effective heuristics. A smart
person performs well, and often innovates, because of the many tools
she possesses. Yet most of these tools won’t work on a given problem,
which is why innovation is 99 percent perspiration. That’s why Edison
once claimed that he knew “a thousand ways not to make a light bulb.”

But how would several dozen Edisons, or several dozen Edisons from
different social, racial and educational backgrounds, approach the
making of a light bulb? To answer that question requires a fuller grasp
of the pitfalls and idiosyncrasies of innovation and the power of
diversity, which in turn requires a slight detour into theory.

First, for any problem there exists a perspective that makes it easy
to grasp a solution, though that may mean waiting for a person as
unique as Edison to come along. Second, across all problems no
perspective or no heuristic is any better than any other. In plain
English, any approach may be just as good as any other until it is

Third, teams of problem solvers—viewed as bundles of perspectives
and heuristics brought together to solve a particular problem—do better
when the diversity of perspectives and heuristics is greater than the
overall ability or talent of the team’s members. In other words,
diverse teams outperform teams composed of the very best individuals.
Diversity trumps ability.

This last result requires further explanation. A team, a group, or
even an entire society innovates through iterative application of
perspectives and heuristics. Individuals who perform best obviously
possess good perspectives and heuristics (think Edison), yet 30 Edisons
each may have 20 useful heuristics while collectively possessing a mere
25. In contrast, the diverse team’s individual members may on average
only know 15 heuristics apiece but collectively know 40.

When the diverse team applies those diverse heuristics, the effects
can be super-additive. Watson plus Crick were far more impressive than
either in isolation. On a far larger scale, Silicon Valley’s breadth of
bright engineers from different academic disciplines and from almost
every corner of the globe out-innovates other technology hotspots with
equal brainpower but less diversity.

Innovation provides the seeds for economic growth, and for that
innovation to happen depends as much on collective difference as on
aggregate ability. If people think alike then no matter how smart they
are they most likely will get stuck at the same locally optimal
solutions. Finding new and better solutions, innovating, requires
thinking differently. That’s why diversity powers innovation.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Thu Jan 25th 2007 at 7:07pm UTC

Global Housing Trends

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

Via Wendy Waters at All About Cities,  a new report by Demographia on global trends in housing markets which notes  growing housing affordability issues in super-star cities, and the splitting of the US into two divergent kinds of housing markets.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Wed Jan 24th 2007 at 12:56pm UTC

Tallahassee Taking Action

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

Yesterday we announced a powerful partnership between the Richard Florida Creativity Group and The Knight Foundation, the Knight Creative Communities Initiative.

Check out the latest coverage in Tallahassee, FL – the first Knight community we will be working with:

A video from the news conference

A great editorial

Also, if you are from the Tallahassee region, please click here to learn more about getting involved!

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Tue Jan 23rd 2007 at 1:17pm UTC

Teaming Up for Regional Prosperity

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

We are thrilled today to announce a dynamic partnership for community
development! Our Creative Class Strategies division has joined with the
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to create the Knight Creative
Communities Initiative (KCCI).

combines our 30 years of economic research with the inspiration of our
mentor, Jane Jacobs, who tells us to “Ask the people that
live there.” The result is a year long program designed for community
members to understand and build their own sustainable regional prosperity.

We have been working on similar programs with vibrant groups in Tacoma, WA and El Paso, TX, and are eager to begin
similar endeavors with the citizens of Tallahassee, FL, Charlotte, NC and Duluth-Superior, MN.

Check out these early press clippings:

from Duluth’s News Tribune and Superior Daily Telegram

Do you live in one of these Knight communities? Be a part of KCCI. Fill-in an application here:

Tallahassee, FL
Duluth-Superior, MN
Charlotte, NC (coming soon!)

Are you interested in hosting a similar program in your community? Contact Rod at

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Mon Jan 22nd 2007 at 11:12pm UTC

Fascinating View of the Valley

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

Interesting piece by Chris Rhoads of the WSJ about one of the pioneers of Silicon Valley. The Twilight Years of Cap’n Crunch offers real insight into the early ‘wild’ years of Silicon Valley and describes the life and career of John Draper,

"In the decades since Mr. Draper gained fame for his
hacking skills as a "phone phreak" — he once claimed to have gotten
then-President Nixon on the phone — Silicon Valley has aged and
matured. Pioneers that Mr. Draper worked with, such as Apple’s Steve
Jobs, have gone on to become wealthy members of the business

Then there is "Cap’n Crunch," part of an aging
community of high-tech wunderkinds. Once tolerated, even embraced, for
his eccentricities, Mr. Draper now lives on the margins of this
affluent world, still striving to carve out a role in the business

Although his appearance and hand-to-mouth existence
belie it, Mr. Draper developed one of the first word-processing
programs as well as the technology that made possible voice-activated
telephone menus. He receives invitations to speak to foreign
governments and international conferences. At a recent celebration of Apple
Inc.’s 30th anniversary, Mr. Draper, sporting a straggly beard, stood
to contribute a story, causing the room to break into applause.

Mr. Draper spent three stints in jail in the 1970s for
tampering with the phone system. A court-appointed psychiatrist once
found him to be "psychotic," although another found nothing wrong with
him. Until a fall at a conference in Istanbul aggravated a back injury,
Mr. Draper was a regular in the rave scene, where people gather in
remote locations and dance through the night to electronic music. Mr.
Draper once did $10,000 worth of Web-site design and other computer
work for a Bay-area therapist in return for physical therapy on his
back because he lacks health insurance."

Really a good read and the WSJ offers some great features online including a photo gallery and video blog of Mr. Draper called CrunchTV.

posted by David

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Sun Jan 21st 2007 at 3:33pm UTC

Music, Innovation, and Creativity

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

TschmuckThe intersection of music, creativity and innovation has been a central interest of mine for some time now. So I was delighted to come across Peter Tschmuck’s work.  Click here to link to one of his papers, and here for his book.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Sun Jan 21st 2007 at 12:53pm UTC


Sunday, January 21st, 2007

Gotta love this “Frankendate” graphic which ran with today’s New York Times, story about why so many Americans are single:.  Referencing the research of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, the story notes:  “with no biological or sociological clock ticking,” the article  states,  “boys can remain boys indefinitely.” The rest of the article digs deeper  into the intersection of  marriage, gender, and social class.

“[W]hen it comes to marriage, the two Americas aren’t divided by
gender. … The emerging gulf is instead one of class — what demographers,
sociologists and those who study the often depressing statistics about
the wedded state call a “marriage gap” between the well-off and the
less so. Statistics show that college educated women are more likely to marry
than non-college educated women — although they marry, on average, two
years later. … In the past, less
educated women often “married up.” … Now, marriage has become more one of equals; when more highly
educated men marry, it tends to be more highly educated women. … Women with more education also are becoming less likely to divorce,
or inclined to divorce, than those with less education. They are even
less likely to be widowed all in all, less likely to end up alone.

The class gap happens in large part because, as Christopher Jencks, a professor of social policy at Harvard, said, “like marries like.”  “If you wanted to predict the characteristics of who I would marry,”
he said, “knowing my education, the strongest correlation you could
observe is that someone who is educated is more likely to marry someone
who is educated, and someone who is not educated is more likely to
marry someone who is not educated.”

The whole story is here.