New class in town…

I remember thinking, as a kid, that because I wanted to grow up to be an artist I had automatically been placed in that ‘other’ group.  You know the group I’m talking about – the ‘not as smart as the other kids who wanted to be doctors and lawyers group’.

I do realize this is simply not true; but it is a fact that ‘some kids’ will grow up with this thought so firmly implanted in their brains that they will always feel they are in that ‘other’ group, no matter what.  (I’m not thinking of any one kid in particular…just making a comment.)

So, I was very pleased to stumble upon the article ‘The Rise of the Creative Class’, by Richard Florida.  I’ll just summarize it here but you might want to go to the site and read the article in its entirety – its pretty interesting.

It starts off talking about the changes in corporate recruiting strategies on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University…(I know this may sound boring  – but it gets better).

From the article

I noticed one member of the group sitting slouched over on the grass, dressed in a tank top, with spiked, multi-colored hair, full-body tattoos, and multiple piercings in his ears.  Apparently ‘this guy’ had just signed on with a recruiting group from Texas – and had inked the highest-paying deal of any graduating student in the history of his department…A big change from the days of the author’s own college days – where students would put on their dressiest clothes and carefully hide any counterculture tendencies to prove that they could fit in with any company….This guy had been wined and dined…

I asked the young man with the spiked hair why he was going to a smaller city in the middle of Texas, a place with a small airport and no professional sports teams, without a major symphony, ballet, opera, or art museum comparable to Pittsburgh’s.  The company is excellent, he told me, There are also terrific people and the work is challenging.  But the clincher, he said, is that, “It’s in Austin!”.  There are lots of young people, he went on to explain, and a tremendous amount to do; a thriving music scene, ethnic and cultural diversity, fabulous outdoor recreation, and great nightlife.  Although he had several good job offers from local high-tech firms, he felt the city lacked the lifestyle options, cultural diversity, and tolerant attitude that would make it attractive to him.  As he summed it up: “How would I fit in here?”.

This young man and his lifestyle proclivities represent a profound new force in the economy and life of America.  He is a member of what I call the creative class: a fast-growing, highly educated, and well-paid segment of the workforce on whose efforts corporate profits and economic growth increasingly depend.  Members of the creative class do a wide variety of work in a wide variety of industries – from technology to entertainment, journalism to finance, high-end manufacturing to the arts.  They do not consciously think of themselves as a class. Yet they share a common ethos that values creativity, individuality, difference, and merit.

Stuck in old paradigms of economic development, cities like Buffalo, New Orleans, and Louisville struggled in the 1980s and 1990s to become the next ‘Silicon Somewhere” by building generic high-tech office parks or subsidizing professional sports teams.  Yet they lost members of the creative class, and their economic dynamism to places like Austin, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Seattle – – places more tolerant, diverse, and open to creativity.  Because of this migration of the creative class, a new social and economic geography is emerging in America, one that does not correspond to old categories like East Coast versus West Coast or Sunbelt versus Frostbelt.  Rather, it is more like the class divisions that have increasingly separated Americans by income and neighborhood, extended into the realm of city and region.

The distinguishing characteristic of the creative class is that its members engage in work whose function is to “create meaningful new forms”.  The super-creative core of this new class includes scientists and engineers, university professors, poets and novelists, artists, entertainers, actors, designers, and architects, as well as the ‘thought leadership’ of modern society: nonfiction writers, editors, cultural figures, think-tank researchers, analysis, and other opinion-makers.  Members of this super-creative core produce new forms or designs that are readily transferable and broadly useful – – such as designing a product that can be widely made, sold and used; coming up with a theorem or strategy that can be applied in many cases; or composing music that can be performed again and again.

Another example is the secretary in today’s pared-down offices.  In many cases this person not only takes on a host of tasks once performed by a large secretarial staff, but becomes a true office manager – channeling flows of information, devising and setting up new systems, often making key decisions on the fly.  These people contribute more than intelligence or computer skills.  They add creative value.

Everywhere we look, creativity is increasingly valued.  Firms and organizations value it for the results that it can produce and individuals value it as a route to self-expression and job satisfaction.

Wow, who knew??

You can read the entire article (which also includes city rankings by creativity) at: www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2001/0205.florida.html

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