A leading thinker on creativity believes attracting talented people is the driving force behind successful cities. In an interview with EURACTIV, Richard Florida, author of ‘The Rise of the Creative Class’, said European countries are battling to attract and retain innovative people.
Bringing together a critical mass of creative workers, developing technology transfer infrastructure and fostering a bohemian, multicultural environment will be essential if European cities are to compete for mobile human capital, he said.
Florida, an ambassador for the European Year of Creativity and Innovation (see EURACTIV LinksDossier), said that to prosper in the “creative age”, cities must embrace talent, technology and tolerance – a concept he calls the ‘3T approach’.
“The driving force behind any effective economic strategy is talented people. We live 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,” he said.
Florida warns that as the global economy becomes more competitive, European countries “will be challenged to attract and retain the brightest talent” as well as to provide the necessary training and education opportunities to stay competitive.
He says employers will have to eliminate distractions for its creative workers by building campuses which include schools, childcare facilities and retail outlets. Public art and landscaping will also help to attract creative people.
Staff retention is essential for creativity as people who work together for a long time are the most creative, he added.
Modern educational infrastructure capable of bringing innovations to market can link researchers to industry, according to Florida.
“To be successful, communities and organisations must have the avenues for transferring research, ideas and innovation into marketable and sustainable products. European universities are paramount to this and provide the innovation infrastructure necessary for the creativity and technology transfer.”
Some of Florida’s work has sparked debate among sociologists and urban planners, including his belief that a city’s success can be predicted by whether it has a thriving gay scene. He has devised ranking systems called the Gay Index and Bohemian Index as a way of rating cultural diversity.
“Tolerance, social inclusion and openness are critical to the future success of a community or organisation. Research has proved time and time again that tolerant communities are more likely to attract coveted high-level human capital and technological innovation than those that are not,” he said.
Florida rejected claims that his focus on the ‘creative class’ is elitist. In his latest book, ‘Who’s Your City?’, he argues in favour of tapping into the creative talents of all citizens.
“The greatest challenge we face is to expand the structures of the creative economy and harness the creativity of much larger segments of the workforce in the service and manufacturing sectors alike. Economic growth is driven by creativity, so if we want to increase it, we have to utilise the creativity of everyone. We are all creative beings and have the potential to [contribute to] the creative economy,” he says.