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.

Clean Up Your Own Yard, Before Cleaning Up The Neighborhood

I stumbled up on “Can Phoenix Make a ‘Creative Class’ appeal” and found it reassuring that others in the area are talking about the current state of the economy in Metro Phoenix in ways other than “doom and gloom”.  I personally happen to think this massive recession is just the wake up call this region needed.  It has proven that land development as a primary economy and tourism as a secondary economy is nothing but a house of cards to every person in a position of power in the region.  We have open ears and willing minds (even if they begrudgingly are moving along).  I posted my thoughts on what Bill had to say directly on Bill’s blog, but wanted to do a separate post on what I thought of of the opinion piece “We can make Phoenix competitive in global contest for talent in the arts, sciences and business“.

Let me start by saying, can we drop this “global” buzz word bullshit?  I mean we can’t even compete with areas like Boulder and Austin.  Do we really want to be worried about Toyko?  Point being, why don’t we start making it so talent and companies currently operating out of Phoenix want to stay in Phoenix.  Perhaps draw some talent and companies from other places far weaker than Phoenix before taking on Goliath.  Every technology company/startup I have talked to in the last 10 years in Arizona has had the “do we need to move to SF/LA/NY” conversation among it’s partners.  We need to get to a place where that discussion isn’t happening anymore.  Then let’s talk about taking on the world.

The opinion piece states “growing body of research that supports our state’s urgent need for economic diversification“.  My father might say, “no shit, sherlock?”.  My big problem here is the piece states the obvious but does little in the way of covering how to fix it.  For example they state “The most prosperous regions over the long term are those with an extensive pool of creative talent“, but no where do they talk about the educational system.  So, are we going to import ALL the talent?  Hardly viable.  They talk a lot about what CEO’s want, but in reality the companies of the future want one thing.  A deep pool of talent to grow their companies with.  Now that we are out of the industrial age, it is easy to move a company providing where you move it has a reasonable source of talented minds.  Simply put, ITS ALL ABOUT PEOPLE!

While I agree “Branding a region is not branding a car – regions are complex, multidimensional and have multiple stakeholders“, I think it’s foolish to think that branding is going to fix things.  We have a lot more than an image problem.  Spending money to polish a turd just makes for an expensive turd.  Can’t we use funding to start to fix real problems.  If we get the right people, they will help mold the branding by being authentic about why they are here.  So, please don’t waste time marketing until the product is ready for delivery.

Do we really get anything valuable out of  The fact that the headline banner says Shocking Truth… “PHX is one of only 13 cities with franchises in all major pro sports leagues: PHX Suns (NBA), AZ Diamondbacks (MLB), AZ Cardinals (NFL) and PHX Coyotes (NHL). The FBR Open has the PGA Tour’s highest attendance.”  To be clear what you are branding to the entire creative class of the world is that Phoenix is completely moronic when it comes to creative people and thinks that big stadiums and sports teams are where it is at.  What sport franchise is in Austin?  How about Boulder?  Research Triangle Park?  Getting the picture yet?

At a time when most creatives consider print as a “dead medium”, let’s spend money producing a magazine.  “PHX, a magazine”… Hint: creative/technical people aren’t adverse to this thing called social media… If you have questions, we have hundreds of self proclaimed experts living here…

While I like their final statement, “Working alone we will have some impact – but working with one voice of commitment and leadership we can be transformational.” I hate to inform them they are not the right people to be leading any kind of a charge.  If we really desire the “AZ we Want”, we the people need to be leading that charge, not the same old cronies that got us into this mess.  What are you going to do to make your mark?

It’s Not About Startups. It’s about changing the world.

Arizona’s insanity of creating a future based on speculative building is nearing an end.  The days of growth economics are behind us.  Will it leave a handful of new Arizona ghost towns in it’s wake or will there be a fundamental shift in the identity and culture of metro Phoenix?

The creatives are coming.  That’s right, the innovators among us are seeking to rise out of the ashes of the foreclosed.  A new wealth, one based on social and not monetary capital is gaining momentum.  As it begins to take foothold it will soon begin to do more than challenge the status quo.  Eventually it will overthrow it.

The crest of this great wave, with a swell of new capital headed toward the shore, is intent on destroying all the ancient structures in it’s path.  The creative class is hungry for radical change.  Forward movement requires new beliefs, new institutions and new ways of doing things.  The creatives have grown up and are taking responsibility for their future.

Simply put, the world is changing.  Are you willing to help shape it’s future?  Radical change starts with YOU!