Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Rise of the Creative Class - Richard Florida

Subtitled ". . . and how it's transforming work, leisure, community, & everyday life." The book was published in 2002 and is probably even more relevant today than it was when it came out. The author is currently a professor at George Mason University's School of Public Policy, in addition to consulting, writing, speaking and being quoted in several recent issues of BusinessWeek on topics from planned communities to home schooling. His website is a testament to what it means to be an active member of the Creative Class that he has identified and should not be missed at It's kept up-to-date with the articles he's published (including a rebuttal to Thomas Freidman's book The World is Flat in the October 2005 issue of The Atlantic Monthly) and reviews of his newest book Flight of the Creative Class.

Everyone needs to read this book. It's just that important. I could sit here and recap all the amazing things this man has to say about our past, our present and our future, but suffice it to say that every word of it makes absolute sense to me. What makes the book truly compelling is the combination of thorough research (for the number crunchers among us), an engaging writing style, and his evident passion for his subject. I ran out of post-it flags before I got to the end of the book.

I hesitate to try and encapsulate the main thesis of the book because it simply wouldn't do it justice. Florida explains how the next iteration of our economy will be based on all things related to creativity and innovation. Unlike major economic developments of the past that relied on natural resources, industrial development, transportation and manufacturing, going forward the mainstay of the American economy will be based on innovation and ideas. These things can only be produced by people - the Creative Class. Cities and regions that develop communities that attract these types of people will become the new centers of industry in this country. He persuasively shows through extensive research how the 3 T's - Technology, Talent and Tolerance - will predict which areas will become the next Silicon Valley. The Creative Class will flock to these areas and companies who need them will follow.

Florida's writing is not all tables and charts (although no one could find fault with his empirical data), some of it is based on his experience as a professor and researcher at Carnegie Mellon and his many years as a resident of Pittsburgh, a struggling post-industrial city. He has conducted many focus groups, been invited to consult with regional economic development councils all over the country, and analyzed successful communities outside our borders such as Dublin, Ireland.

The message of this book is an important one. I simply can't put in a few paragraphs how essential these concepts are to understanding what is happening now and what will be happening for the next several decades. I've already purchased Flight of the Creative Class and will be interested to see where he takes these concepts next.

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