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Frequently Asked Questions

Quotes attributed to international best-selling author Richard Florida

  • How do you define the Creative Class?

    The Creative Class describes 40 million workers – 30 percent of the U.S. workforce – and includes two segments of workers:

    • Creative Professionals – These professionals are the classic knowledge-based workers and include those working in healthcare, business and finance, the legal sector, and education.
    • Super-Creative Core – These workers include scientists, engineers, techies, innovators, and researchers, as well as artists, designers, writers and musicians.

    The Creative Class is the core force of economic growth in our future economy. In fact, the Creative Class is expected to add more than 10 million jobs in the next decade.

  • What is the economic impact of the Creative Class?

    Even though the Creative Class represents only a third of the workforce, they earn more than $2.1 trillion dollars – 50 percent of all wages and salaries in the United States. This total represents as much as the manufacturing and service sectors combined.

    In addition, the Creative Class controls nearly 70 percent – almost $500 billion – of the discretionary income (buying power) in the U.S. This is more than double that of the manufacturing and service sectors combined.

  • If you had 10 seconds to talk about your work, how would you describe the essence of your research?

    One phrase: Every single human being is creative. Economic growth is driven by creativity, so if we want to increase it, we have to tap into the creativity of everyone. That’s what makes me optimistic. For the first time in human history, the basic logic of our economy dictates that further economic development requires the further development and use of human creative capabilities. The great challenge of our time is to find ways to tap into every human’s creativity.

  • You define industries in three different sectors. What are they?

    Service, manufacturing, and creative. The agricultural sector hardly registers anymore, accounting for only about two percent of the workforce. Manufacturing is dwindling, too. But the booming service sector has 50 million workers and 31 percent of the total wages.

    While smaller than the service sector, the creative sector accounts for 50 percent of wages and salaries as much as the manufacturing and service sectors combined. While the manufacturing sector will continue to decline over the coming decade, both the service sector and the creative sector will grow.

    An important challenge we face is how to upgrade work and wages in the service sector. Lots of people bemoan the demise of high-paying, low-skill manufacturing jobs which provided a port-of-entry for workers. My father was one of them. He worked in a factory all his life. But today, the service sector can play an equivalent role. I have called for a service economy summit to bring global leaders together to improve wages and working conditions in the service economy, and to make that work more creatively so that millions of good jobs can be created.

  • What are the 3T’s of economic development?

    Talent, Technology, and Tolerance – represent what I call the 3T’s of economic development. The 3T’s approach represents a comprehensive strategy for organizations, cities, regions and countries to compete and prosper in the creative age.

    Talent: The driving force behind any effective economic strategy is talented people. We live in a more mobile age than ever before. People, especially top creative talent, move around a lot. A community’s ability to attract and retain top talent is the defining issue of the creative age.

    Technology: Technology and innovation are critical components of a community or organization’s ability to drive economic growth. To be successful, communities and organizations must have the avenues for transferring research, ideas, and innovation into marketable and sustainable products. Universities are paramount to this, and provide a key hub institution of the creative age.

    Tolerance: Economic prosperity relies on cultural, entrepreneurial, civic, scientific, and artistic creativity. Creative workers with these talents need communities, organizations, and peers that are open to new ideas and different people. Places receptive to immigration, alternative lifestyles, and new views on social status and power structures will benefit significantly in the creative age.

    Some people complain that tolerance is too benign of a term. In Flight of the Creative Class, I define it as proactive inclusion.

    Since the publishing of The Rise of the Creative Class, some researchers and economic development practitioners have offered a fourth T – territory assets.

    Territory Assets: More than ever before, place matters. Territory assets are the natural, built, and psychological settings of the community. It is the distinct “vibe” that makes communities unique from one another. People want to live in communities that are unique and inspiring to them.

  • How can government better encourage creativity?

    First, government must invest in science and technology. Supporting legislation that limits advanced research, science, and innovation is worrisome for our future. Turning science into a political football will affect our ability to attract future talent and compete at the cutting edge.

    Second, they must embrace strategies to better train, educate and prepare our workforce. We need a new paradigm for education; we must embrace concept learning everywhere. America’s biggest deficit isn’t our budget or trade – it’s in talent.

    Third, government must set the climate for tolerance. If the U.S. is viewed as a place less open to gays and lesbians, immigrants, or young people, we will fall considerably behind other creative global giants. Remember, America’s willingness to welcome those who the rest of world rejected during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s is what made our country great. During that time, we embraced some of the best and brightest scientists – Enrico Fermi to Albert Einstein. We are no longer communicating that same message to the rest of the world. Without immigrants, we can not operate a high-tech economy. With open borders, we could attract many brilliant young Chinese and Indian entrepreneurs.

  • How do you answer critics who say jobs drive creative development, not the other way around?

    It’s false. That’s why I wrote The Rise of the Creative Class. The two go together in a cycle of economic growth. To grow jobs you need people, and good jobs attract more people.

    The Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Lucas identified the role of talent in driving economic growth a long time ago – he called it “human capital externalities” – the positive benefits you get when talented people cluster and concentrate. In fact, he credited the great urbanist Jane Jacobs with this insight. Most economists now agree the motor force of economic development isn’t jobs per se; it’s human capital, talented people that attract firms and form new entrepreneurial ventures.

  • What is the outlook of the future labor market?

    It’s getting worse. Right now we rely on foreign talent – immigrants – to fill our key high-tech positions. A huge segment of our engineering and computer science workforce is foreign born. And more than a third of all Silicon Valley startup companies since the 1990s were founded by immigrants.

    When the Baby Boom generation retires, it’s going to get even worse. We’re likely to face the largest shortage of skills and talent in U.S. history. We need to start today – retraining, better educating, and fully preparing our workforce. The creative economy will require a new set of skills – critical thinking, problem solving, etc. We have to stop worrying about outsourcing and off-shoring; these issues will eventually go away.

  • How can the creative economy overcome inequality?

    We must upgrade our service sector. Service sector jobs in fields such as lawn care, home care, housing remodeling, personal service, massage therapy, cosmetology, and hair cutting are growing rapidly. These jobs are the “port-of entry” into the creative age and make up 40 to 45 percent of our economy. We have to offer these workers competitive wages, benefits, and training. Starbucks’ success shows that it can be done; the company invested in their workers and is now one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Other companies like Ikea, H&M, Whole Foods, and the Container Store are providing higher wages and better benefits for service workers. We need to upgrade wages, working conditions and creativity in service work.

    No longer is inequality just material goods. It means using all of our talents. People today want to use their full talents, to self-express and self-actualize. The ability for each and everyone of us to use our talents, be ourselves, and realize our dreams is the key to building a more equal, inclusive, and thriving society.

  • How can you manage creative people?

    Effectively managing creative talent is the most important decision companies can make for their future. Creative employees spur economic growth. They will invent new technology, develop increased expertise, and stimulate scientific thinking. In an interview with the Harvard Business Review, James Goodnight, founder and CEO of SAS Institute, and I outlined three principles employers can use to guide their management of creative types.

    First, an employer must eliminate distractions for its creative workers. This allows employees to remain fully engaged in their work. Goodnight did this at SAS by creating a campus setting equipped with a Montessori school and high school.

    Second, managers are responsible for sparking creativity. Goodnight built a campus that included public art, landscape sculpture, and jogging trails.

    Finally, employers must engage creative workers as invested equals in the company’s future. At SAS, Goodnight gave each of his employees individual challenges and tasks instead of stock options or bonuses. “It’s [a challenge] different for a salesman than it is for a software coder.”

    Goodnight says that long-term employment is essential. Creativity is embedded in relationships, and it thrives among people who have worked together a long time. If he keeps people for 20 or 30 years, that human capital forms creative capital.

  • What is the “mega-region”?

    It’s around the mega-regions that global economy takes shape.

    The new megalopolis – what I call the mega-region – is taking shape in the great urban centers of the world. What we previously thought of as cities, and then as regions, are now joining together in chains of regions, integrated economic areas whose scale dwarfs the economic units of the past.

    There are a couple dozen mega-regions that more or less drive the world economy. Many of the geographic areas outside of these regions are quickly slipping away in terms of economic competitiveness.

  • In the battle of talent, do you think location is supplanting the corporation?

    Absolutely. Place is the new economic organizing unit. It used to be the region, many hundreds of years ago. Then it was the nation-state and, in modern times, the corporation.

    The economic organizing unit has again come full circle; as the mega-region becomes the nexus around which all other economic factors rotate. Firms specialize in making things better. Places that engender diversity and innovate are the ones which drive economic growth. It no longer makes sense to talk just about business competitiveness or the wealth of nations. The key lies in the wealth of place.

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