It was a dark and stormy night, and Guido was walking his pet aardvark. Ignore me--I'm trying to be creative. I'm under pressure to write a clever introduction for the author of The Rise of the Creative Class (Basic Books). Richard Florida is professor of regional economic development at the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. In his book, he argues that entrepreneurs, artists and other innovators belong to a creative class, and woe to cities that don't recognize it.
What is this creative class, and why should cities pay more attention?
Richard Florida: There are three dimensions to creativity: technological creativity, economic creativity or entrepreneurship and artistic/cultural creativity. You need all three to prosper, and for too long, we've narrowed it down to the first two. If you look at the high-tech meccas-San Francisco; Austin, Texas; Seattle-most have a very dynamic music scene. Obviously, places that can be comfortable homes to musical innovators are going to be comfortable homes for risk-takers [of all kinds].
Different pathway? Such as?
Florida: There's a relationship between entrepreneurs and bohemians, in that most of organized society consider them bad. One woman I quote in the book says, "Now I know I'm an entrepreneur, but before I just thought I was a weird person, an eccentric." I'm not saying that bohemians and entrepreneurs are the same, but that societies open to risk, to entrepreneurship, to new ideas have the same underlying characteristics. Forget your stadiums, forget your downtown malls. You have to build not only a business climate with tax incentives, but also a people climate, which attracts innovative, eccentric and sometimes downright weird people. And those signals say to entrepreneurs "Hey, come on in."
So what can entrepreneurs do to help their city's creative class rise?
Florida: Entrepreneurs can do what I've been doing: working with entrepreneurial groups and technological associations to throw parties, dinners and events where the entrepreneurial, technology, artistic and cultural communities can network. [In Pittsburgh,] it's working-we're realizing we have a lot in common. We're not just a fractured group of interests. We are a social unit, and we want to change society and overcome obstacles. We've got to work together, or we're not going to see the kind of society we really want.
- Richard Florida
Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.