Richard Florida: Creativity is the basis of the future

Richard Florida gave a presentation in Budapest upon an invitation from PAGEO

Richard Florida, one of the world’s best known urbanists, decided to analyse in his research what makes a town successful and liveable. Florida represents the creative class and supports the urban environment that will become the long-term engine of economic, scientific and cultural development. Invited by PAGEO, the American professor gave a presentation in Budapest in June 2015 with valuable thoughts, also relevant for Hungary.

Who Makes The Earth Move

Florida is the author of a number of bestsellers, of which The Rise of the Creative Class stands out. In it, the author attempts to define the creative class, which is the social class that determines our age the most. According to Florida, the identity of the new leading class of the current times has not yet evolved. This identity stems from the creative factor and the transforming economy. The purpose of the book is to show why and how that class will achieve an outstanding role and what consequences it will have for society as a whole.

Using the words of Keith Simonton, he defines creativity as the interconnection of “novelty, usefulness and surprise”. Creativity is required for current lifestyles and can be used in all areas, but occasionally is not compatible with an organised system. A creative individual is no longer a novelty; it is the “new mainstream” in the USA. According to Florida, the great economic, cultural and geographic changes have been driven by these creative experts since the 1990s. The creative class evolved from the economy transforming in response to the crisis, and its identity may also stem from economic change. This corresponds with the statistical data, according to which the share of the creative class in the labour market did

not decrease – in fact, it mostly increased during the crisis. Two types of employees can be distinguished within the group: the “super creative” base, which actively drives innovation, and creative experts, who are provided opportunities to exploit their creativity in their job. They make up one-third of active employees, and Florida sets a target for the future to exploit the creativity of the remaining two-thirds of individuals participating in the working and service-providing classes.

The creative class is fundamentally contrary to the ideal, expert image of corporate culture that dominated the 20th century. Loyalty is less important; demand for mobility increases; and certain rules, such as dress code, become looser.

Their work has become an organic part of their lifestyle, but creative and flexible work also has a shady side – namely, such individuals struggle with a continuous shortage of time, because they allocate every minute of their lives to their profession. The creative class can also be formed based on the values believed by its members – among which individualism, diversity and openness, as well as meritocracy, stand out.

Their set of values is also reflected in employment aspects, and therefore in relation to the increasingly expanding changes of the last ten years. It has become general characteristic that creative work is ranked higher than an attractive salary in the list of motivations. A job full of challenges and responsibilities has gained importance. Most individuals dream of flexibility in terms of a job, environment, employment and the community. Professional feedback is also important to them. Florida published a new version of his book in 2010, where the former thoughts reflecting on the changes triggered by the crisis is the essential message.

Florida looks at the 2008 crisis as the ultimate failure of the economic and industrial order. He sees the development of a new economic system where the relationship between companies and employees is changing, and which also takes into account

problems arising from confrontations between technological and social development. Although there is a negative correlation between the global creativity index and the Gini index of countries, the problem of inequality is still especially severe in the USA, which is presented to us as an example. In that regard, Florida is afraid of a new type of geographic segregation.

The most important message given by Florida is the mission of the social class as he defines it. He calls upon the creative class to build a new structure that can produce benefits for all society. In that process, he defines six key components and, although some of them seem obvious (strong middle class, social net, education system), he introduces the feeling of responsibility and urges people to find their identity – because, without these, the creative class cannot be the path to future opportunity.

Florida and the Budapest Brain Bar

Richard Florida attended the Brain Bar conference, held in Budapest on June 5, 2015, where he gave a keynote presentation on successful municipalities. In his presentation, he explained that he had visited Budapest before and was happy to see the obvious development. The spectacular changes raised a few questions: What is happening in the economy and in towns? What is happening in Budapest? Florida outlined potential wider prospects for countries recovering from the trauma of the economic crisis. In the course of history, the transformation of the economic order has always been a natural process, although as a general tendency progress was always made as a result of changes in the use of physical equipment. That is how the agricultural society turned into an industrial society. However, over recent decades there have been major changes in the quality of materials, because the “materials” of our times include technology and information. The labour market has transformed accordingly. Since the 1970s, the ratio of employees working in the service sector has gone up significantly, and their dominance is still prevailing.

Florida revises Marx’s thoughts when defining the individual features of the people of our times. Not only information and technology make our times special, but so does creativity, which is a special human quality of the individual forming this period. With the help of this quality, the work of the community transforms its own environment.

This is supported by the fact that there are 20 countries where 40 per cent of the employees are engaged in creative jobs. According to Florida, the same statement applies to approximately one-third of jobs in Hungary. The main driving force of economic and social development consists of the 3 Ts of development: technology, talent and tolerance.

Indices were established on the basis of these three factors. Hungary is ranked 34th and 33rd in the world according to the first two factors, which is an outstanding result according to Florida. There is a slight shortfall in tolerance, as Hungary lies in the 41st position globally in that respect. Although he admits that his calculations have been criticised, he still maintains his main theory that creativity exists in each person. He supports that statement with plenty of research conducted in factories. The most successful companies turned out to be those that regarded their employees as potential inventors and creators and made their plants competitive by exploiting that creativity. Nonetheless, factories are less relevant to the current system.

Advisor to global brands

Florida established the Creative Class Group advisory company in 2002, where the world’s next generation of researchers, university lecturers and business strategists provide advisory services to a number of companies and organisations.

“Each individual human creature is creative.” This short sentence can also be referred to as Richard Florida’s ars poetica, because in his research career, the urbanist focuses mostly on the power of human creativity that transforms cities and the quality of life. Richard Florida is the director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and a global research professor at New York University. In addition to his university career, he is also the founder and director of the Creative Class Group. In his career, he explains issues of economy and development for the 21st century through sociological, economic and demographic research.

Apart from academic work, he is the editor-in-chief of The Atlantic magazine and founder of the CityLab column, which has become the world’s leading website dedicated to urbanism. He makes the results of his latest research available to the public in order to point out the challenges of the 21st century affecting American cities.

He analyses current issues, such as the situation of the New York middle class on the luxury property market or firearms permitted in American secondary schools, and he also writes about the negative impacts of economic incentives for small enterprises.

His clients include Google, Philips, Kraft Foods and a number of other multinational companies, which receive advisory services on the basis of their global database and analyses. Their investment strategies also take into account local specificities, such as the structure of cities, the degree of urbanisation and the local importance of the creative class. Thus, they address primarily companies that intend to attain a target group from creative individuals who have considerable purchasing power. Their activities focus primarily on Florida’s research and concepts in terms of economic competitiveness, as well as social and cultural development. His wife, Rana Florida, is a companion in his work, too, and supports the objectives of the organisation through business and enterprise development.

Creativity Is the Basis of the Future

These days the largest class is the service provider class. This sector makes up 50% of the American labour market. It is characterised by low operational productivity. Its robust growth, which began in the 1970s, stemmed from the robotisation of industrial activities. However, the American dream has started to decay. Added value and salaries are low, which has had detrimental effects on the middle class. Inequality continues to grow. According to Florida, more creativity in the provision of services would be a solution, as it would provide not only social advantages, but would also lead to greater productivity.

The Power of the “Hub”

Florida also challenges the statement “the world has become flat”. In his opinion, geographic space and distance are more important than ever before, especially since the greatest talents and inventors always emerged from densely populated hubs, which throughout the history of mankind have always been cities.

He also thinks that this statement is proved by the map of night-time illumination, which reflects the geographic structure of the global economy. Lights outline spectacular networks. They concentrate the world into 40 economic functional areas, forming mega-regions. According to Florida, these days it is not countries, but mega-regions that compete with each other. Therefore, instead of all of China, only the Shanghai mega-region, or similarly, the Budapest-Vienna mega-region are competitors.

However, even within these territorial concentrations, the three Ts are very important and concentrated in the territorial hubs of our times – i.e., cities, where Florida can see a revolution developing. Communities create the greatest innovations, as innovation stems from the collective talent and will of a city. The quality of community cannot be neglected either. A good community has distinctive features including openness, flexibility, independent and tolerance.

Naturally, the quality of place is also important. This entails several dimensions with natural characteristics that are made use of and not destroyed. One is the urban requirement, where heritage protection and innovation are equally important. Another is cultural environment, which does not only involve high culture, but also initiatives on the street. Even start-up companies tend to move into cities. On the other hand, gentrification, concentration and plutocracy are observed in New York, London and San Francisco, causing significant problems for larger groups seeking evolution. That is why the search for new places is an important part of the urban revolution.

For Florida, human creativity is the most important factor. You never know where the next source of innovation will come from, and therefore this opportunity must be maintained for each individual. This is the most important mission of the creative class.


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