Archive for October, 2008

CCE Editor
by CCE Editor
Fri Oct 31st 2008 at 8:48am UTC

Trick or Treat!

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Pumpkins, witches, candy, ghosts… it’s all important. But Halloween just isn’t Halloween without some pint-sized trick-or-treaters. How does your neighborhood rate?

Playborhood cites Richard Florida’s concept known as the “Trick-or-Treater Index” which rates the child friendliness of a neighborhood:

The idea is simple: just count the number of trick-or-treaters at your door on Halloween night and you’ll get a measure of how child friendly your neighborhood is the whole year. Certainly, it’s quite simplistic, but I would agree that neighborhoods with lots of trick-or-treaters tend to have lots of children who are comfortable being outside in their neighborhood.

Tonight, count the number of rings and knocks at your door and report back to us with the details. What’s your trick-or-treater index where you live? What are your thoughts on this annual event as a measure of the child friendliness in your neighborhood?

Happy Halloween from all of us at the Creative Class Exchange!

Kwende Kefentse
by Kwende Kefentse
Thu Oct 30th 2008 at 10:53pm UTC

Making a Place with Community Radio

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

For those who don’t know, I do a radio show once a week on CKCU, our nation’s oldest and most distinguished campus-based community radio station. It’s funding drive season, and the two hours of begging for money on the air last week got me thinking about the function of community radio – other than satisfying my love to play music, what does the radio station do, and why does it deserve the money it’s asking for? Especially considering the fact that in the shift from more communal modes of organization to more individual ones, radio was one of the first technologies to be absorbed into the Internet? Community radio – defined as radio that’s community based, independent, and participatory – not only incubates and creates opportunity for media talent, artists, and local business but in fact has a critical role in the building of place itself.

In addition to still being the most democratic way to transmit information (at least until access to the Net becomes an inalienable right), people in places like Afghanistan have used radio for its very strong community building functions. It permits feedback and creates the critical collective third place wherein a culture develops, by playing the role of arbiter (and depending on the host and quality of the programming, arbiter elegantiae) between the global and the local – or as some young people might regard it, the digital and the physical. Moreover, radio does this on a scale that is appreciable by the community.

To that end, community radio is still the most representative of what’s going on at the ground level of any broadcasting locality precisely because it is implicitly community based and rooted to a physical locality/broadcast radius. The Internet, for all of its wonders, cannot make that claim. Place can easily be dissolved in the web, which is both its strength and weakness. The Internet might be more democratic in terms of access to information, but actually less expressive in terms of what that information means to the person accessing it, and their world. Community radio helps to emphasize that while preserving micro-cultural diversity within larger regions by physically defining that community and giving that locality a collective voice.

Ironically, at least as it relates to music, the MySpace/online music revolution might have served to make community radio more relevant. Young people with seriously sophisticated media sensibilities often require more than a link to take something seriously. A link might get a cursory glance, but something physical and real – something tethered to human contact, effort, and excitement – is what garners the sustained look. When a local band or group or personality has made it on community radio it communicates that something about that band or group or personality – whatever it is – has translated beyond the flux and fire of the digital world for somebody. They’ve been pulled out of the faceless ether of information and brought into a real, physical community, and community radio is a much more authentic word of mouth than its digital counterparts because of it.

How do you feel about the relevance and value of radio in these digital days? How does the concept of a physical broadcasting range help form community?

And now, as always, some music.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Thu Oct 30th 2008 at 9:07am UTC

Spiky and Unequal

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

U.S. cities are now as unequal as those in Africa, according to a new UN report (via Planetizen).

Major U.S. cities including New York, Washington, Atlanta and New Orleans have levels of economic inequality that rival cities in Africa … The most balanced city in the world is Beijing, with the most egalitarian cities on average to be found in western Europe … “The authors (of the study) find that though the cities in the United States of America have relatively lower levels of poverty than many other cities in the developed world, their levels of income inequality are quite high,” the report said.

Another new study on inequality in U.S. urban areas by Ed Glaeser and colleagues (via Mark Thoma) sheds light on this, finding that urban inequality which was previously reflected poverty concentration now reflects the increasing concentration of wealthier, higher-skilled populations in certain urban areas.

What determines the degree of inequality across metropolitan areas? Twenty years ago, metropolitan inequality was strongly associated with poverty, but today, inequality is more strongly linked to the presence of the wealthy. Inequality in skills can explain about one third of the variation in income inequality, and that skill inequality is itself explained by historical schooling patterns and immigration. There are also substantial differences in the returns to skill, related to local concentrations in different industries, and these too are strongly correlated with inequality.

This jibes with our analysis in Flight of the Creative Class which found that highly innovative and creative regions were among the most unequal.

America’s economic geography is becoming spikier and more unequal both within as well as between regions.

Roger Martin
by Roger Martin
Thu Oct 30th 2008 at 8:20am UTC

Defective Model

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

As originally published in BusinessWeek, this is the third and final installment in a series about improving corporate decision-making. Part 1. Part 2.

What about the customer-service representative at the very bottom of the hierarchy? We all know what happens when we get a voice at other end of the line who is clearly following the manual and making no decisions – “I’m sorry, sir, the policy doesn’t allow me to do that.” That is, for us, the absolute definition of dreadful service – we loathe that experience. We know from experience that the customer-service representative must be a choice-making brain as well.

So every single person in the corporation, from the CEO at the top of the hierarchy to the customer-service representative at the bottom, is a choice-making brain. The distinction between formulation and implementation is false. Most importantly, the dominant design metaphor for the decision factory is deeply, deeply flawed – and a flawed design metaphor will produce flawed designs.

A superior metaphor for the modern decision-factory corporation is a white-water river. In this conceptualization, choices cascade from the top of the corporation (the source in the mountains) to the bottom (the mouth of the river). Each set of rapids is a choice point, with each “upstream” choice setting a context in which the choice immediately “downstream” is made. As decisions cascade downward, the choice-maker above must set the context for the choice-maker below by:

1) specifying her choice and the rationale for the choice;

2) describing the resultant next-level choice that her decision begets;

3) offering to assist in making the resultant choice, to the extent that the next choice-maker needs the assistance; and

4) offering to revisit and modify her decision if the user finds it impossible to make a productive next-level choice in the context of her decision.

HUMAN UNDERSTANDING. Within this cascade of choices, executives at the top of the corporation make the broader, more abstract choices involving larger, long-term investments, while the employees toward the bottom make more concrete, day-to-day decisions that directly influence customer service and satisfaction.

All the choices must integrate with each other to create a seamless cascade. Hence, all the choice-makers feel they’re in a joint venture, even though there’s a clear hierarchy from top to bottom. Importantly, in this conceptualization, every employee is both brains and arms and legs, chooser and doer – just like a real human being!

This conceptualization is also much more conducive to decision-design excellence. When the corporation is understood as a choice cascade, it’s clear to each decision-maker exactly who the users of their choices are and what types of choices those users will need to make subsequently. Since they’re all in the choice cascade together, each decision-maker is more inclined to gain deep user understanding rather than “throwing the choice over the wall” for “implementation.” Deep user understanding provides more raw materials for the visualization of creative solutions.

POSSIBILITY KNOCKS. The cascade also creates a more conducive context for collaborative prototyping. Feedback from the downstream users who are more clearly linked together in a collaborative venture encourages the revisiting and the refinement of upstream decisions over time. The result is a more robustly designed loop of data, insights, and choices that flows from the customer to the top of the corporation and back down again in a productive circle.

A better design metaphor doesn’t guarantee better design. But abandoning the brain vs. arms and legs for the cascading river opens up the possibility for better decision design, leading to creative customer solutions and a healthier, more authentic corporate culture.

Click here to read this article in its entirety at BusinessWeek.com.

David Miller
by David Miller
Wed Oct 29th 2008 at 4:21pm UTC

Ink Drips – Creative Core to Suburban Mom

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

One of the reasons for studying the creative class, and the super-creative core especially, is that many social, economic, consumer, workplace, and cultural changes begin there and filter out to broader segments of society.

In Rise, Richard begins the book with his famous time-traveler thought experiment. Young people with tattoos and piercings were one of the elements of the modern workplace that would have thrown our time traveler off. Is this still the case?

According to WSJ writer Ann Zimmerman, tattoo parlors are coming to a mall near you! There are a handful of entrepreneurs trying to make tattoo parlors “less edgy” and easier to get to by locating them in suburban malls! From the article:

So far, some traditional mall customers have responded well to the tattoo parlors. Geralyn Stanley, a 32-year-old high-school art teacher and mother of two young girls, wanted a tattoo but was leery of patronizing traditional parlors. When she came across the white-tiled, rock-music-playing Tattoo Nation in the Woodbridge Center Mall, she felt more at ease – so much so that she has gotten three tattoos in the past year. On one visit, she brought along her mother, a 52-year-old librarian, who got her first tattoo.

I am not sure what this means as we already know there are plenty of members of the creative class living in suburbia (including art teachers and librarians), but there is something here isn’t there? There is something going on when tattoo parlors locate between a Disney Store and a Gap Store.

An interesting side note in the story is that some tattoo artists are resistant to working in such environments -  until they find out about health insurance, paid vacations, and retirement plans.

CCE Editor
by CCE Editor
Wed Oct 29th 2008 at 4:18pm UTC

Collaboration for the Future

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Richard Florida will appear on a special CNBC show with Donny Deutsch, airing next Sunday, November 9, at 8 p.m. EST. On tap for discussion? Adapting to the next generation of technology and planning for future innovation and collaboration.

What do you think about Second Life, Apple after collaboration, and using R&D to stay ahead?

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Wed Oct 29th 2008 at 8:57am UTC

Sort and Vote

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Over at his terrific Slate blog, my old comrade Bill Bishop explains the election in maps and graphics.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Wed Oct 29th 2008 at 8:56am UTC

Obama and Cities

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

“[Y]es, we need to fight poverty. Yes, we need to fight crime. Yes, we need to strengthen our cities. But we also need to stop seeing our cities as the problem and start seeing them as the solution… Because strong cities are the building blocks of strong regions, and strong regions are essential for a strong America.”

Said to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in June, but I had not seen it before (more here via Planetizen). A quick look at the polls show a double digit Obama lead and significant margins in the electoral college, so this is encouraging news for all those concerned for cities and urbanism in America.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Tue Oct 28th 2008 at 8:32am UTC

Builders vs. Traders

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Writing in the Globe and Mail, my good friend and Prosperity Institute “builder” Geoff Beattie nails the key difference between two kinds of development strategies. One creates fictitious wealth, the other is key to real, sustainable development.

The two approaches – building versus trading – are profoundly different. What we have seen in recent months are the consequences for the markets of both domination for too long by a trading mindset and ever decreasing levels of regulation. In other words, as the game was getting faster and tougher, the rule book was getting thinner and easier.

The pattern of constant trading had ever more deleterious effects. As return expectations grow, traders become exposed to ever-escalating levels of risk. Because the pipeline of new, high-quality investment opportunities is not infinite, traders are forced to tolerate higher levels of risk. When returns start to suffer, they have to leverage their capital by investing borrowed money to help juice the investment return …

In contrast to traders, builders invest with the intent of seeing a business opportunity develop over time … Builders invest over the long term and integrate risk management into their strategies as they must inevitably ride the highs and lows of the economy. Builders expect, and navigate through, the downturns based on a confidence in the underlying fundamentals of the business, its market and its management. Builders understand and engage in the businesses in which they invest and thus contribute both to the businesses’ success as well as that of investors …

The influence of the trader mentality has crept beyond Wall Street and the business world and infiltrated government policy, with devastating results. Decades of deregulation by the American and other governments has allowed a free-for-all in the financial markets – not to mention airlines, telecoms, energy and even prescription drugs. It has been supported by a political philosophy that disregarded the long term, expected markets to resolve their own problems, threw money at problems when they did arise, and let diplomacy and relationship-building wither away in business and foreign affairs.

How do we recover the builder orientation? I hope the discipline of the markets will start us off. It is extremely valuable to have a new generation of investors live through a major market downturn …We also need to revisit how we judge and compensate our business leaders and, for that matter, government leaders…The average lifespan of a CEO of a Fortune 500 company is now less than four years. How can we expect them to be interested in the long-term health of their business when their tenure lasts only a few years?

There is also an important role for government and public policy …Good government isn’t big government or no government; it is smart government that embraces its responsibility to look decades ahead and build the appropriate policy infrastructures for growth and prosperity. Our tax, corporate and securities laws need to foster and reward the builder mentality with incentives and stability.

In short, we need to restore a builder mentality in government, on Main Street, in our boardrooms, among institutional investors, and around the kitchen table. The pain we all feel now will be wasted if we don’t learn from it.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Tue Oct 28th 2008 at 8:32am UTC

The U.S., Mexico, and Turkey

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

The U.S., Mexico, and Turkey are the three most unequal countries in the world, according to major new OECD study covering the past two decades. The Associated Press reports:

The United States has the highest inequality and poverty in the OECD after Mexico and Turkey, and the gap has increased rapidly since 2000 … In the United States, the richest 10 percent earn an average of US$93,000 — the highest level in the OECD. The poorest 10 percent earn an average of US$5,800 — about 20 percent lower than the OECD average. Social mobility is lowest in countries with high inequality such as the United States …

Not good. So do you think such rising economic inequality might feed into today’s financial meltdown and economic crisis?