Richard Florida Interview.

16 Jun 2015

“We have to move beyond the idea that growth is good in and of itself”

The Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, Global Research Professor at New York University, and the founder of the Creative Class Group, which works closely with governments and companies worldwide, Richard Florida is perhaps the world’s leading urbanist, “as close to a household name as it is possible for an urban theorist to be in America,” according to The Economist. Esquire has included him on its annual list of “The Best and the Brightest,” and Fast Company dubbed him an “intellectual rock star.” MIT Technology Review recently named him one of the world’s most influential thinkers. GDI also named him one of the world’s global thought leaders of 2013 and the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) recently named him 100 of the most followed scientists. He is also a member of the Global Agenda Council on the Creative Economy, World Economic Fórum.

– Could we say that the great illusion of growth without real development has been finished? Yes, as I wrote in The Rise of the Creative Class Revisited, we have to move beyond the idea that growth is good in and of itself. More output is not a good thing of itself; frankly this is an idea that is a holdover from the industrial age and no longer holds true in a time when innovation, creativity and human potential driver the economy. We need to focus on growth that fully utilizes human capabilities and brings greater meaning to our lives, not just more consumption and stuff.

– The service sector is creating the largest number of companies. Is this sector key in the economic recovery? The service sector is a very important part of our economy today, everything from personal services to child care.   Given the massive growth of this sector, we’ll be challenged with improving the jobs within this sector. We simply can’t write off the workers who toil in these low-wage positions. We have to find ways to bring the service sector more fully into the Creative Age. Every job can and must be creatified; every worker must be empowered to harness his or her own inner entrepreneur. Governments build incubators for high tech startups–we need to start extending assistance to low-tech startups as well: nail salons, mom-and-pop stores, fitness trainers, and the like.

– Three collapse moments: The tech bubble, 11S and economic crisis of 2008. ¿What have we learned? During each of the collapse moments, especially recently with the economic crisis (or Great Reset as I refer to it), we’ve learned that we have a greater need for a focus on creativity, innovation and human development to ensure future economic prosperity. Just as I wrote in The Rise of the Creative Class, I still believe every single human being is creativity. Economic growth is driven by creativity, so if we want to increase it, we have to tap into the creativity of everyone; this should be the single point of focus for all economic development efforts moving forward. For the first time in human history, the basic logic of our economy dictates that further economic development requires the further development and use of human creative capabilities. The great challenge of our time is to find ways to tap into every human’s creativity.

– You believe cities are the frontier of innovation and efficiency, what is the difference between a city capable of adapting to changes from others cities which want to live in the past that will not return? For me, it comes back to the 3Ts of economic development that I wrote about in The Rise of the Creative Class, which represents a comprehensive strategy for organizations, cities, regions and countries to compete and prosper in the creative age.

  • Talent: The driving force behind any effective economic strategy is talented people. We live in a more mobile age than ever before. People, especially top creative talent, move around a lot. A community’s ability to attract and retain top talent is the defining issue of the creative age.
  • Technology: Technology and innovation are critical components of a community or organization’s ability to drive economic growth. To be successful, communities and organizations must have the avenues for transferring research, ideas, and innovation into marketable and sustainable products. Universities are paramount to this, and provide a key hub institution of the creative age.
  • Tolerance: Economic prosperity relies on cultural, entrepreneurial, civic, scientific, and artistic creativity. Creative workers with these talents need communities, organizations, and peers that are open to new ideas and different people. Places receptive to immigration, alternative lifestyles, and new views on social status and power structures will benefit significantly in the creative age.

– The concept of creative class creates confusion in Spain. It seems it’s exclusively for artists. What does creative class really mean? The Creative Class describes 31percent of Spain’s workforce – and includes two segments of workers:

  • Creative Professionals – These professionals are the classic knowledge-based workers and include those working in healthcare, business and finance, the legal sector, and education.
  • Super-Creative Core – These workers include scientists, engineers, techies, innovators, and researchers, as well as artists, designers, writers and musicians.

The Creative Class is the core force of economic growth in our future economy.

– You consider very important to invest in infrastructure. Spain has the most extensive European network of high-speed train and second worldwide, only behind China. High-speed train means a very high investment. To what extent an infrastructure such as high-speed train support a recovery or start a new phase. It’s critical. As I am writing about in my new book (due out in 2016), we have to invest in an urban growth model that will help move people and ideas throughout our cities and from city to city. High-speed rail is a strategic investment that is critical to our long-term economic growth and prosperity.    

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