on July 27, 2005
RF has written an excellent followup to his first book. His concept that the U.S. is suffering a "brain drain" has been discussed pretty thoroughly by other reviewers, so I won't rehash it, other than to say that I think he's right on the button. The title, in fact, reflects only part of the story: what I found most stimulating about the book is his suggestions for the future.
I think that his recommendations about education are excellent. He does NOT say that a college education is a necessary prerequisite for prosperity; rather, he points out that the present U.S. educational system doesn't foster (and indeed squelches) the creativity, flexibility, and initiative that students need to succeed in today's volatile economy. While training a nation of workplace drones and mindless consumers might have been expedient in the age of large factories, it's counterproductive today and represents an immense waste of human abilities, especially if we're losing the influx of immigrant talent and ambition that has fueled our economy up to now. (Current educational reforms, e.g., No Student Left Behind, are a step backwards in their focus on rote memorization and standardized tests; the aim appears to be to create easily measurable results to make a political point.)
It's noteworthy that RF doesn't take sides politically: while he bewails the political climate that has led to the "flight of the creative class," he also deplores the increased polarization of the major parties, which has more to do with Washington power politics than with voters' actual beliefs. (He's right about that: it's a pity that the "purple America" map from the 2004 election reproduced so poorly in the book, because it makes the important point that we're not nearly as divided a nation as we're made out to be.) He faults the Republicans for being wedded to old-money industries such as oil, but faults the Democrats equally for buying into the nineteenth-century business model by catering to unions. And both parties have failed equally in recognizing what truly drives the U.S. economy (hint to some previous reviewers: it's not just money).
As for the commonly expressed criticism that RF is glorifying an effete, self-centered "creative class" while ignoring the unwashed masses, do the math: these people prospered economically not because they inherited money, but because they WORKED FOR IT. Regional success stories such as Silicon Valley and Seattle were built, not by trust-fund babies (or, for that matter, on Enron-style accounting), but by people who committed themselves passionately to a project, took financial risks, and worked long hours. His suggestions in the later sections of the book have to do, not with keeping the "creative class" exclusive, but with improving both the work environment and the educational system so that the rest of society can draw upon their own creativity to achieve the same personal and financial success.
on April 22, 2005
I've found the negative reviews to be perplexing- such vitriolic diatribes and very little critical thought evident- I wonder if the book was actually read by these reviewers. This is a really good book that deserves to be read and discussed. Florida doesn't pretend to have all of the answers. People with pulses and a modicum of creativity seem to understand the premises he puts forth. For those looking to blame someone, anyone, for the economic equity gap evident in this country, Florida is an easy target. Folks, don't kill the messenger, he may have something to teach you. The cultural insularity and puritanical values perpetuated in current public policy have long term consequences. Wake up!
on November 25, 2005
This book is an extension of Florida's "Creativity Thesis" from his earlier book (although this work certainly stands on its own). His primary theme is that a new economic category has begun to dominate our society in a challenging way: the "creative class," a broad term defining those who work in idea-based jobs. It doesn't mean merely artists and musicians but encompasses lawyers, scientists, and others that consult, advise, invent, etc. This group is fast becoming a critical part of any region's economic success, and Florida attempts to sort out the consequences. Importantly, for success a city must have more than job availability. To attract the creative types a city must offer diversity and lifestyle opportunity too -- a thesis I find humane and reasonable. Cities must provide fulfillment, as well as dollars.
Florida argues that the United States must now compete globally for talent in order to succeed. We are currently failing, he argues, by limiting opportunities for immigrants which are the key to diversity and economic drive. Florida's is not a gloom and doom image, but a suggestion that the playing field is leveling -- although the US currently has an important advantage of having vibrant, connected and exciting cities to attract creative talent.
Florida's boldest argument in political terms is the importance of immigration. Immigration is the lifeblood of a creative economy, and Florida notes that immigration is important both in its quantity and its diversity. Immigrants from varied countries will add to the creativity the new economy requires. The current drop in immigration alarms Florida; immigrants must make up, for example, the shortfall in current science research by that of American citizens. This interchange of immigrants benefits all: this is not merely about the US succeeding but the benefits economies and expertise of home countries too.
Florida's examples are varied and sometimes surprising. His emphasis on the paramount importance of education explains why Ireland succeeds while Italy languishes. Successful cities such as San Francisco and Seattle provide the elements of 1. technology, 2, talent, 3. diversity he sees necessary for the right creative mix. Curiously New York City is absent from much of his discussion. He notes that due to lack of a creative element to their economy, China and India are not the future of economic development. On the downside, Florida warns that the creative economy has losing cities too, and has the consequence of stratifying an economy to extremes of wealth and poverty, such as St. Louis, Detroit, and Buffalo.
Although this is an excellent book, as a nitpicky complaint I would add that the charts Florida uses -- 2d information drawn as a 3d aspect -- are cheesy and flawed, as presenting 2d information in perspectival view visually exaggerates the force of charted information. The arguments are interesting enough with this ridiculous razzle-dazzle.
on August 8, 2008
In the first portion of this book, Richard Florida recaps and defends the major ideas in his first book, The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life. He addresses some of his critics and reasserts his thesis, which proposes that the ascendancy of a powerful class of creative, talented workers is making PLACES more important than companies. The Places that this new class will be attracted to display an abundance of what Florida calls the 3 T's: Technology, Talent, and Tolerance.
Florida expands this thesis to a wider canvas in this second book: In the Global economy, as the world becomes more "flat," American cities won't just be competing against other American cities for talent. They will be they will be competing against cities in Australia, India, Ireland, Sweden, etc. In other words, a city like Pittsburgh won't just be looking to keep talented grads from Carnegie Mellon from migrating to Austin; those grads may decide they want to go to Dublin, Ireland to live and work.
Florida outlines how important immigration has been to our nation's economic development and how two major factors with regards to immigration are beginning to make some erosive headway. The first is outsourcing, which is moving up the skill scale from customer service to application development. While certainly a difficulty, Florida thinks that outsourcing is a manageable problem, and that the jobs we lose from outsourcing can be replaced with new jobs created by innovative companies.
However, the second "pincer of the claw" is the increasing difficulty that the United States experiences in attracting and retaining the talented, super-educated knowledge workers who will be the innovators. If the erosion of that class of workers continues, eventually we will not be creating the new jobs to replace the outsourced ones.
Rather than a doomsday now scenario, Florida admits that the United States still holds a Technological edge and probably will hold that dominance for a little while yet. However, he shows that there is no doubt that other countries have made at least some headway with patents in certain areas where America held sway uncontested.
It is the other T's that Florida focuses on in the latter half of the book. Where is the Talent going? And how can we create a more diverse, open society? Using studies and statistics, his research tracks where people are moving globally, and he examines how our immigration policies and our increasing class divisions may be contributing to our difficulties in retaining talented innovators and entrepeneurs.
Flight of the Creative Class has more focus than Rise of the Creative Class, and the benefit is a more compelling read. There are still some issues I think holdover from the first book. For instance, it is very hard to pin down exactly who is the Creative Class, and Florida seems to avoid any significant discussion of how unions will play out in this mix.
Contrary to many criticisms I have seen here on Amazon and elsewhere, Florida does look at factors such as housing affordability, and he is extremely sensitive to the inequalities the Creative Class itself can create.
My paperback edition includes the essay, "The World is Spiky," which is Florida's Atlantic Monthly article responding to the growing acceptance of Thomas Friedman's idea that "The World Is Flat." Florida argues that the while globalization is helping to economically develop some areas, the peaks and valleys created by the "spikyness," of that world map are making it more treacherous for those in the lows than it has ever been.
on June 1, 2005
Here's a thought...those who have extremely negative reactions to this book may actually be a part of the challenge facing us all, from corporate management to community leaders. Perhaps many of us are too close to and protective of our own narrow "dots" to connect the dots of the bigger picture.
If you read Florida's book with an open mind and the confidence to challenge your patterns and perceptions, you realize that he dares himself and others from many realms to see the wider ripples in our global pond. I work with a group of employers and community leaders facing the real issues this book addresses. The best part about Florida's work is that while each of our individual corporate or community members may find certain `dot connections' in the books they may question, they all have been energized by the ideas which stimulate a more comprehensive dialogue.
Don't rely on any one review - rely on your intuition... if people are so passionate in responding to the book, it is worth reading...especially if you are a critical thinker yourself. It is not about separating classes further or offering one complete solution for our economic future. It actually gives you interesting material and exercise for your brain to come up with solutions which apply to your own corporations and communities. Engaging more sectors to work together is a solid step, just as a successful leadership team in any organization includes people with very different talents. This is where new solutions are born, and where the broad appeal of Florida's work is having a tangible impact.
on October 29, 2005
Although the author builds on premises put forth in his previous books (The Rise of the Creative Class, and Cities and the Creative Class), this is by far the best of the three. With fewer economic tables and statistics, it is highly accessible and relevant. I read it immediately following his presentation at a conference I was attending, and was both enlightened and inspired.
Florida discusses the three Ts that draw people to a city: Technology, Talent, and Tolerance, and describes how people will go to places that harbor those three conditions. Further, they go to what are essentially `good places to live', rather than `where the work is'. Countries like Canada and New Zealand, to name just two of the many possibilities outside the United States, are fast becoming ideal places for creative people to flourish.
This book is a harbinger of sorts, recognizing that the smart, talented, and creative people of our age (which Florida believes is everyone, to some degree), have a wide world to choose from unlike their forbears of the previous industrial age.
I admire this book, and look forward to the publication of his latest findings, which go further still in assessing the global picture.
on June 21, 2006
While I appreciated and generally agreed with the thesis Richard Florida puts forward that creativity is important for society, there were many times when I found his writing `style' to be annoying. I had almost put the book down after completing the first third of it. Mr. Florida's sensitivity to criticism and unabashed need to respond to every negative comment he received from his first book made me wonder just how narcissistic this man was. His ego flows onto each page and sometimes, in my view, gets in the way of his work and feeds a perception that he is not completely objective.
There are many points that get overlooked in his analysis. Why are people gravitating to Austin, Texas? Mr. Florida postulates it is because the city is open to new ideas and diverse. While I am certain that there are people who choose to relocate based on perceptions of how open and diverse a given area is, it makes more sense to look at more practical motivators such as taxes, real estate prices, crime rates, or climate. Tangible factors such as these get little mention. The assumption made by Mr. Florida is that a heterogeneous, open society is more creative than a homogenous, closed one. I guess that Japan and South Korea don't count.
I could go on, but I would not recommend this book.
on August 2, 2011
On pp 9-10, Richard casually mentions government regulation as one of the reasons for USA's 11th place and dropping ranking for creative business environs,citing Sweden Canada Australia, Ireland as ahead of us.....he consistently glosses over the fact that the creative class as he created it is assumed to be enlightened coastal liberals, who are notorious for creating these regulations on the very creative businesses he champions, and, or course, on every other non-creative buinsess who suffer alike.....which of course stifles all creativity ...like agriculture which he avoids because everybody knows farmers are neither creative nor liberal, nor coastal (Richard's assumptions) ......and the aforementioned countries, after decades of their own self stifling liberalism, are in liberal-political -recovery......the US is just now falling into that abyss....recovery possibly just starting. Richard assumes again that personal attributes such as of tolerance are owend by the creative class on the coasts, and several other smug-ceative class personal attributes.....perhaps the most galling of human atributes, "patronizing smugness" permeates.
IN other words....the creative class and Richard should stay out of politics...they are damn poor visionaries for human governance.....too much imangination too little reality.....create a digi-phone, go to creative little coffeeshop, order creative brew, complain about ruling party, .....and go home to creative little meal, music, movie, be smug, be creative, leave the rest alone!
Otherwise, good observations on the movements of cutting edge industry on the planet and the USA's position in same.
on May 10, 2006
Richard Florida's work has many culturally helpful things to say. A kid's review - well argued by the way - has pointed out that Florida's work has a right brain bias. I agree, and I don't mind.
The US leads in entertainment and cultural innovation. Its writers, artists, musicians have inspired the rest of the world for a century. Today though, we fall behind in math as India and China educate engineers by the thousands. Both kinds of professionals are needed to create DIGITAL content. Communications technology without a stimulating variety of cultural content would be vapid, robotic and regimented. Humane, funny, vulnerable, caring, prankish creatives make the technology math heads produce worth watching, listening to, interacting with.
Florida's cultural creatives are the people who do this. Without them, you get the aesthetics of the the first experiments in 3D animation in the early 80's. No art direction and horrible colors. Digital technology has to present something pleasing to the eye,the ear, the soul. And the sensibility that creates this is a different kind of sensibility from algorithmic math and logic. When married, you get Apple. When kept separate you get Sun microsystems.
But wait tech heads. Great content still needs fabulous technology to get encoded into bits, sent 20,000 miles and decoded. Records don't get made without audio engineers.
Can we get over this petty squabbling and admit that techies and artists need each other? Do we all have to be little DaVinci's to close the gap? If Florida complains about President Bush subtly or not so subtly in this book, it's because Bush doesn't get half of the equation. Have you ever heard Bush say anything about the arts in his two terms as president? Short sighted, I think, and worth a complaint or two.
on January 12, 2006
Even before finishing this book, I began recommending to all my friends at least to read it, even if they are not inclined to buy it. Now, after I finished it, I became even more convinced that everybody who is interested in economics, current affairs or just in reading some thought provoking book, should read "the Flight of creative class ".
In this book, Florida continues to develop the idea that the growth of national, regional or city's economy is defined by its ability to attract and retain the members of creative class. His "Three T" theory (Talant, Technology, Tolerance) includes one component that does not exist in classic works on economic growth - tolerance. According to Florida, this component is the absolute prerequisite for everything else.
All those ideas, together with supporting research, you can also find in his previous book "The rise of creative class". But while the first book made me to nod in agreement, the second one made me gasp. What's the difference? In this book, Florida adds an international dimension and explains the reasons behind US economics losing its competitive advantage - which for years was based on America's ability to attract and retain the most talented people in the world.
Even though most of us would agree - on the common sense level - that this ability is degrading, the amount of supporting evidence provided in the book is amazing. It includes both statistical data and some real life stories (which make the book more readable for the average reader like myself). In addition, Florida analyzes many related issues and provides very actionable plan ... not sure if it is realistic, provided that for its implementation the politicians will have to check their egos at the door!
And this is another point, which makes this book really unique in the modern times: Florida does not take political sides; he objectively analyses both parties' programs and point of view... but honestly, I was not even able to guess where his vote went on the last election.
One of the best and most interesting for me chapters is the one, where Florida analyzes the role of immigrants in the economic growth. I did not know, for example, that 5 out of ten richest people in the history of America were immigrants... and this is just top of the top of the iceberg.
Obviously, there are some points where I don't buy Florida's arguments. To begin with, you have to be really careful with his definitions before you become totally impressed by the stats. For example, if the definition of creative class includes managers , and the contribution of each class is measured by their salary...well, isn't it obvious that the "contribution" of creative class is higher than their relative percentage?
This is, however, minor. The bigger issue for me is... well, I live in Toronto, one of these international creative centres phraised by Florida. While I agree with him in respect to the level of tolerance in Toronto as compared to US, I still wish to see Toronto becoming more important, more creative, more vibrating and high-tech... I am almost tempted to add the fourth "T" of Taxes to FLorida's model, but that's just being cynical. On more serious note, Florida's theory is interesting and looks more viable than most of modern economic theories, but is still does miss some elements - may be, we will see them in his next book?