No Creative Left Behind…

I had planned to release this post in a week or two, but I am jumping it up in the queue after hearing Brent Spore’s “Social Media Universe” session at PodCamp.  This is largely to refute those people who think we should not be inviting more people into our communities.  I hope the perspective helps change your mind….


When I hear people talk about the Creative Class here in Arizona, I always assume they don’t get it.  When I hear them talk I hear them talking really about the smallest segment of the Creative Class, the Bohemians.

The Creative Class by definition is made up of..

Super-Creative Core: This comprises about twelve percent of all U.S. jobs. This group is deemed to contain a wide range of occupations (e.g. science, engineering, education, computer programming, research) with arts, design, and media workers making a small subset. Those belonging to this group are considered to “fully engage in the creative process” (Florida, 2002, p. 69). The Super-Creative Core is considered innovative, creating commercial products and consumer goods. Their primary job function is to be creative and innovative. “Along with problem solving, their work may entail problem finding” (Florida, 2002, p. 69).

Creative Professionals: These professionals are the classic knowledge-based workers and include those working in healthcare, business and finance, the legal sector, and education. They “draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems” using higher degrees of education to do so (2002).

Additional to these two main groups of creative people, the usually much smaller group of Bohemians are also included in the creative class.

There is a reason that this is problematic, beyond the fact that all three of segments of the Creative Class being necessary to feed off one another is that we are ignoring a HUGE portion of the Creative talent in the area.  Let me put this into a very simple equation for you.  In the 2000 census, it was shown that we have about 28% of 1.4million working people in the creative class or 405,000 people.  Only 18,000 of them are the bohemian subset.  Nothing like leaving over 350,000 people out of an equation.  If you look at 2008 estimates Maricopa county has grown by about 20%.  That means that there are nearly 500,000 creative class individuals living here.

Think about that for a minute.  The most connected of people in our current circles might be connected to 5,000 people.  The biggest events generally are attended by less than 1,000 people.  We are not reaching, including or participating with nearly 495,000 people.  Think of the impact we would have if we could engage even 10% of this group.  Can you imagine 50,000 people participating and working towards solutions.  Look at the gap we are leaving behind.


  1. We also shouldn’t be having to beg people to show up. Geeks, you did a great job getting the ball rolling. I know you want to keep our little community to yourself, but many of us are socially well adjusted, and inviting more smart people into the fold doesn’t freak us out.

    Don’t worry, we won’t let them stuff you into lockers.

  2. I think I get your point here, but I have a couple of comments:

    1) I think it’s ridiculous to include “legal” and “healthcare” workers as part of any “creative” class. What the hell? What exactly does a healthcare worker “create” that’s any different from what any other service job might create? Am I a “creative professional” if I work at a fast food joint because I create burgers all day long? Ridiculous. So I object from the beginning with the basic category definition.

    That aside…

    2) I think at some point this gets back to the sort of statistics that I’ve read about from website research, where something like 98% of users don’t contribute anything at all. 2% do all of the commenting, posting, uploading, etc. The takeaway for me of this is that, put simply, the vast majority of people just couldn’t really give a shit. They’ve got their own other things going on and aren’t really looking to “participate” in much of anything else. My point here is I’m not sure how much of this “target market” are actually capturable, and my guess is that it’d be a tiny sliver of them.

    I don’t intend to say we shouldn’t attempt to broaden our community, but I do hope we won’t start getting a bit TOO broad in our perception of our goals. Broadness is great, but it comes with dilution, and I think it’s important to strike a balance and not lose too much focus.

  3. Looking at the article you linked to, where they attempt to explain why “Creative Professionals” are what they are:

    “Their main job is to think and to create new standard approaches for fixing the problem at hand.”

    Haha! So, “I solve problems that I encounter” makes me a Creative Professional, as long as I have an advanced degree? Whatever.

  4. Brandon,

    I think if the majority of your job is solving problems using knowledge that it makes what you do a lot different than an employee that spends their day applying the same techique/principle over and over without thought.

    I very much consider doctors, nurses and lawyers “knowledge” workers. These professions have to continually be learning in order to stay relevant.

  5. I agree that they are Knowledge Workers. I do NOT agree that all Knowledge Workers should be considered “Creatives”. My mother is a nurse actually, and while she cares a great deal about her job, I don’t think she’d describe herself as a “Creative Professional”. Doctors are too bound by protocol and standard practice to do anything especially “creative” either. In fact, most creativity in medicine would be considered malpractice.

    I dunno, I just don’t see the point of conflating these groups. They may seem the same on paper, under some broad category, but I think the reality is very different.

  6. Take the foreign transplant guy here working on cool stuff for some major corporation. He’s goes to work, bangs out some cool stuff, goes home, spends time with his family etc. He’s got buddies from work that he hangs out with on occasion and maybe spends time with some friends on the weekend.

    He’s probably got a lot of interesting stuff bouncing around in his brain and would be a good addition to the community. However, when so much of the “community” around here revolves around egos and event attendance, it’s hard for these people to get involved. Assuming they even knew about it, what difference does it make to them if they participate, they gonna feed their kids some whuffie?

    If you want to get more people involved and participating in all of this I think you need to put yourself in their shoes and ask “what’s in it for me?”.

  7. Allow me to elaborate a bit. Imagine that you have a woman who runs a charitable organization. They take donations from the local community, and use those funds to have a positive impact. Her job is, daily, to figure out the best ways to utilize the available funding to solve the problems in her community, perhaps related to some specific sub-category, such as homeless teens.

    That requires REAL problem solving, and REAL knowledge. However, it does not require an “advanced degree”. According to the categorization from that article, she would not be a “Creative Professional”, or even a “Creative” AT ALL. However, if she had an advanced degree and worked as a nurse, she would be? I just think that whole approach to value creation is completely skewed. I think it damages the common understanding of the word “creative” and makes it into something extremely generic. Maybe that’s the problem with trying to label groups like this. I don’t know.

  8. Building a community full of people who are thinking “What’s in it for me?” is going to be a dead end. That’s not a community at all. That’s a bunch of leeches.

    A thriving and vibrant community will be made up of people who go in thinking “What can I contribute?” and then see benefits from doing so.

  9. The problem with “no ____ left behind’ movements is that they panders to the lowest common denominator.

    Yes, more outreach needs to be done, and the EV tech community needs to loosen their grip on the term ‘creative’ to include the artist, musicians, scientists and community activists that also create throughout the region.

    At the same time, every community has a barrier to entry, otherwise it wouldn’t be a community. The Phoenix creative community can’t hold everybody’s hand all the time or send personalize invitations to each of the 500,000 potential creatives in town. Creative types need to seek out opportunities as well, otherwise, we’ll spend so much time ensuring everybody gets on board that we won’t actually be moving anywhere.

    After participating in Ignite and attending TED, I was excited by the breath of the Valley’s creative scope that went far beyond than the social media crowd. Maybe one way to begin bridging this gap is for movements like Gangplank or PIF to hold other types of events that target other circles in the creative community.

    What about Gangplank hosting a theater night, PIF putting on a bio-science camp, or SMC having an artists panel? This way the door can be opened to new people, the different circles of creatives can learn from one another and the existing movements can maintain its forward momentum.

  10. Well said, D. And I could give a crap about labels, who fits under those labels, and what percentage those with said label make up of the general population. But like you, I DO NOT feel this is the time to be exclusionary. Big town we’ve got here. Big country we’ve got here. Pretty big world we’ve got here. I think there’s room for a LOT more.

  11. I make it my personal goal to reach out to new people every week and expand my personal network every month. I’m actively seeking people who are different from me in job and activities, but similar to me in passion and commitment to exploring ideas. I get excited each time I stumble into a new pocket of people who I haven’t met through Twitter or Ignite Phoenix or PodCamp. Fresh blood, fresh ideas.

    I’m looking to find out what events these people are doing and share with them the events I’m doing. In the end, I just want to know these people. I don’t care if they join my community. They join my life. There is room for overlapping and non-overlapping communities in Phoenix. I’m not on a mission to bring new people into the existing fold. I’m not an evangelist for my subsets of the community. I don’t want to homogenize Phoenix. I’m one person who thrives on diversity and fresh outlooks and I live my life to facilitate that goal.

  12. “If you want to get more people involved and participating in all of this I think you need to put yourself in their shoes and ask “what’s in it for me?”.”

    I tend to agree.

  13. “The problem with “no ____ left behind’ movements is that they panders to the lowest common denominator. ”

    The title was meant to draw people in.. In no way is this meant as some legislative movement. 🙂

    “Yes, more outreach needs to be done, and the EV tech community needs to loosen their grip on the term ‘creative’ to include the artist, musicians, scientists and community activists that also create throughout the region.”

    I know at Gangplank we are doing everything possible to get worlds to collide. We have have had music events and are getting ready to unload some awesome in that area. We even had an artist as one of our anchor tenants until they moved to Los Angeles. We are working to get more scientists in the building as well. Not to mention the amount of community activism we are preparing for. 🙂

    We are completely open to different possibilities. Just last night I had a conversation that looks like will produce an different type of music event and an art show.. If you know non-tech creatives looking to do something please give them my name. I would love to meet them.

  14. I agree. So, what do we do? I’m introducing people to the community, all the time. I know it’s not enough.

    I don’t believe more events are the solution. Yet, necessary?

    For example: I would like to introduce my journalism friends to your entrepreneurial and tech friends. Maybe a mixer? No agenda, no rhetoric, no bullshit. Just different groups of people talking. Let them find each other.

    Not all of them are going to get it…but if we can make a few connections? That’s the idea right? Interested? How do we do that? I know you guys are trying to organize something…but didn’t know how it went.

    I know journalists….but

    How do I put myself in the entrepreneur shoes? What would be in it for them? How do I get them?

  15. Just my two cents — trying to figure out how to get more people to an event is like trying to figure out how to drive more traffic to a website.

    There are people who prefer to get their information online, and people who prefer to get it in person. The people who don’t come to an event aren’t necessarily blowing it off because we don’t care. Like many geeks, I’m feeling pretty exhausted and low-extroversion by the weekend and I need downtime.

    I would love to spend my Saturday and Sunday with a bunch of cool, like-minded people… but I also need to work out, cook, clean my house and see my family. I sense it’s easier for those who are in flexible employment situations to devote weekends to workshops. It’s not very easy for me!

    Anyway, all I ask is that I not be considered one of the people who “don’t matter” because I can’t be everywhere at once. I care. But give me a medium that I can work in.

  16. The answer certainly isn’t more events, it’s how do we get everyone talking in a way we all can understand.

    You can be a creative professional no matter what your job title says and we must, must look beyond that.

    And yes, some sacrifice is required for all. One or two days a month doesn’t seem like too much to ask. Even showing up for an hour or two can get you involved in the convo, just like Derek did with PodCampAZ. Two days was too much, but one day was just right. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

  17. And, since so many geek/nerds seem to be socially…well, let’s say forced, it’s high time we went after a different crowd of people. We have plenty of high-energy people who might be able to contribute.

  18. Ok you sucked me in… I think it’s silly to think that a community is generated artificially or that we can grow a creative class from thin air. People are drawn to winners and to success, but they encounter a lot of losers and failures along the way.

    Events/companies/organizations/groups/etc attract a subset of people with whom they share a common interest. Those groups cross-pollenate and connections are made and strengthened over time.

    If we want to grow anything it starts with doing it ourselves and by speaking up and participating. There is no right life or right way only lives and ways. Creating connections and more ways for people to connect in any way anywhere is a good start.

    There is no bad event. There is no bad meetup. There is no bad idea. That does not mean that they don’t fail, but if they get a few people together for a few minutes and a butterfly flaps it’s wings who knows what will happen in the future.

  19. Tyler, why are you disparaging on the fact that geeks in particular have used social media to come together? That’s a good thing. If we did it your way, we’d water our current events down to appeal to a broader demographic, we wouldn’t draw in these imaginary non geek creatives, and the current audience would become disinterested in the new direction. Ignoring the current audience to appeal to an imaginary larger one is a recipe for failure. Just look at broadcast television.

    And I think this extends to my thoughts on Derek’s post. It’s a good thing to want to reach out to a larger audience, but you’ll probably fail if you do it at the expense of your current one. Events should be specialized. General appeal may sacrifice specific appeal, and could have the overall effect of watering things down and making them less useful.

    If you want to reach a different audience, you’ll have to target them specifically. And accept that there may be limited overlap with what we’ve got going on already.

  20. Ben-How did I disparage anything?

    This weekend at PodCampAZ I heard talk of exclusion, of protecting what we have from those not like us.

    That is ridiculous.

    You’ll notice my first post spoke to the fact that I don’t think we should be begging anyone to join, either. There’s just room for more bright minds that aren’t your typical work from home or basement geeks with what even they consider limited real-life social skills.

  21. Part of the solution lies on the other side of the coin. There are hundreds of non social media events going on throughout the Valley every month. If each social media geek chose one of these events to attend and meet new creative people it would help get others involved in the conversation, as well as gain some perspectives from outside of our echo chamber on how better to reach out to other creative circles in the Valley not currently involved in this conversation (but likely having similar ones of their own.)

  22. Tyler – I agree. “Protecting what we have from those not like us” is ridiculous, if it’s pure xenophobia. And there certainly is room for more people to join.

    But this was geek week, and your response was geeks are socially awkward so “it’s high time we went after a different crowd of people.” And that we shouldn’t do it with more events. That’s watering down the focus, it wouldn’t be geek week any more. But that’s not to say that there shouldn’t be other events with a different focus.

    When Yuri said “social media events” I understood it to mean “events put on by the community of people who use social media.” What he said makes good sense to me. Derek asked the question, “why aren’t we reaching all these creatives.” The answer may be that we’ve succeeded in creating this awesome community over the last few years, now it’s time we start occasionally stepping outside of it. (ewww, why do I feel like I’m in church for saying that)

  23. GeekWeek may not exist forever, nor do I think it should. We are entering into an entirely different type of defining work, whether it be geek, white collar, blue collar or entrepreneurial.

    We are the LEADERS, but that doesn’t mean we need to be the audience, too.

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