Join the Creative Class

by Luke Wroblewski June 14, 2004

Due to a recent increase in travel, I’ve had an opportunity to catch up on my reading. Richard Florida’s insightful The Rise of the Creative Class details the shift in people’s lives due to an increasing “creative ethos” based on recognition of the value of creativity.

Florida’s research in the field of economics identified that contrary to popular opinion, people did not move to where the jobs are, but rather companies moved to where skilled workers lived. These skilled workers have increasingly begun to march to a different drummer and Florida has identified them as a new and vital economic class. His creative class constitutes more than 30% of the American workforce and is growing because creativity (the ability to create new meaningful forms) has become the decisive source of competitive advantage for virtually every industry.

Characteristics of the creative class include: strong individual identities; a desire for flexible schedules, challenging work, and peer recognition; front-loaded and horizontal career paths; and an integration of multiple interests (people in the creative class identify themselves through a tangle of connections to myriad creative activities). The creative class has begun to blur traditional notions of time, work, and leisure and (by way of their increasing value) instigated changes in the workplace and the community.

The creative workplace replaces traditional hierarchical systems of control with new forms of self-management, peer recognition, and intrinsic forms of motivation. Creativity is now the key element of global competition, more than the flow of goods and services. We must begin to think of creativity as a common good, like liberty or security.