Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life has taken the US economic development industry by storm. This professor of Regional Economic Development at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, entered the discussion of “what now?” and “what next?” as the high-tech stock market was making its rough ride to the bottom and America was reconsidering its deconstruction of the military/industrial complex in favor of consumer products. His fresh writing style and data-driven analysis appeal both to the armchair economist and the popular culture watcher.
His thesis? There is a significant contingent in the 18 to 35-year-old demographic that is quietly having a large impact on the future of the development of products and ideas in this country, and their potential to shape our culture is just beginning to be revealed. If properly identified as one of our richest natural resources and employed in the context of economic recovery, this resource, which is flocking to certain locales throughout the country, has the vitality and promise we are looking for in the current recession.
Why is recognizing this contingent important to managers of knowledge generation and management functions? Because the creative class that Florida describes is largely composed of people in these functions. He looks at how their values, level of self-direction, portability, and social mores impact attracting, retaining, and applying their talents from a regional standpoint. He also discusses how their lifestyles and work styles coalesce and how they are motivated-largely by their curiosity and opportunities to express their creativity. His analysis of their sometimes surprisingly conservative values, preference for loosely coupled relationships, and focus on place is peppered with numerous insights into working with and motivating these valuable human resources.
In summary, this 404-page book, with index, covers the topic in four parts and 15 chapters. Appendices beginning on page 327 show the cities and various indices he uses in evaluating certain locations’ attractions for this class of worker.
Part One: The Creative Age
These three chapters provide the obligatory, and somewhat scholarly, backward glance to give context for the rest of the discussion. This is great reading if you are interested in economic and social history, as I am. In Chapter Four, Florida explains his working definition of “creative class” and how it relates to similar analyses of work culture by other scholars:
The rise of the Creative Economy has had a profound effect on the sorting of people into social groups or classes. Others have speculated over the years on the rise of new classes in the advanced industrial economies. During the 1960s, Peter Drucker and Fritz Machlup described the growing role and importance of the new group of workers they dubbed “knowledge workers.” Writing in the 1970s, Daniel Bell pointed to a new, more meritocratic class structure of scientists, engineers, managers, and administrators brought on by the shift from a manufacturing to a “postindustrial” economy. The sociologist Erik Olin Wright has written for decades about the rise of what he called a new “professional-managerial” class. Robert Reich more recently advanced the term “symbolic analysts” to describe the members of the workforce who manipulate ideas and symbols. All of these observers caught economic aspects of the emerging class structure that I describe here. (p. 67)
Part Two: Work
This section begins to cover the social and cultural differences between the creative class, their parents, and their peers-including what may be a few surprises. In a section on managing creativity, Florida discusses human resource management strategies as they have emerged in high-tech companies. Then, he makes an interesting observation:
And these practices offered one great efficiency to firms-and one incredible advantage to capitalism-which ultimately assured their further diffusion. They enabled firms and the economy as a whole to capture the creative talents of people who would have been considered oddballs, eccentrics or worse during the high period of the organizational age. Richard Lloyd quotes the founder of one of the Chicago high-tech firms studied as saying: “Lots of people who fell between the cracks in another generation and who were more marginalized are