As we're thinking about the role of story in our personal lives -- family, friends, adventures, etc. -- and in our professional encounters -- brands, marketing, communications, etc., the dynamics tend to be the same. It feels like story is the perfect container for capturing the higher concepts of commerce and bringing about the shifts we are observing on the socio-economic side.
We all build our lives around stories. Those who can build an open and expansive story will have an open and expansive life. Those who build a limited story, will live a limited life. This is as true about individuals as it is about cities, and countries.
When Richard Florida started talking about a creative class, he examined a niche group of society. He defines this class as those whose economic function is to create new ideas, new technology, and new creative content. In his books and on his blog, The Creativity Exchange, Florida focuses on statistics and data that tell us about where to find creativity and what it looks like. Members of this class include scientists, engineers, architects, educators, writers, artists, and entertainers.
These are all people who use their talents to realize a dream, and engage in activities that will make them money. Among the concepts put forth in front of an audience of about 300 last week at the inauguration of the new Center for the Creative Economy at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
When I first moved to the city of brotherly love in 1988, it looked very different than today. Thanks to the renewed energy of education centers in the city and the region, and the contribution of young professionals throughout the region, this place has transitioned more securely from an industrial city to a destination for the sciences and technology.
Always alert on how we use language, I wonder then if we could do away with the term 'class' and go directly to 'economy'. After all, we're talking about unleashing a talent for the benefit of self and society at large. I'd like us to consider the power of these words also on the merits of what Florida shared has been a shift from a commerce based on the concept of rents, which are distributed like the unions, to one based on royalties, which are skewed and based on star systems.
For a creative economy to work, the earlier questions of what (you know, for example) and who (you are, or know) are replaced by the idea of where -- place matters. I've seen this trend develop when the City of London worked on a campaign to rebrand itself, which is probably one of the reasons it won the bid for the 2012 Olympics from Paris. I was in Paris the day of the rally to host the games, which took place in Champs d'Elysees. Confetti was several inches deep.
If you've been reading this blog, you know what I think about Made in Italy. To me it has always meant much more than creative: sexy, delicious, musical, beautiful, sustainable, popular, etc. Made in Italy has been and is a great brand. If location matters, then story really plays a key role.
Compare that with Made in China. What are you thinking about now? As Aric Chen writes in the June issue of Fast Company [available online now to subscribers], China is poised on The Next Cultural Revolution, one of the creative kind. Aric talks about a new dynamic, business-savvy generation that wants to redefine product design, architecture, fashion and entertainment.
From the planning of next year's Olympic games to showcase the innovation of the Chinese people by, among others, legendary film director Zhang Yimou, to the international stardom achieved by actress Ziyi Zhang, the future of Made in China wants to mean more than a cheaper replica of a widget, or a knock off of a DVD. It wants to tower proudly in our consciousness for beauty and style, in the same way that MAD Design Absolute Towers will catch our eye and breath near Toronto after 2009.
Creativity has had its time for a while; it now seems to begin to have its place as well. Dr. Florida is asking readers to weigh in the title of his new book, which will discuss the economy of place in more depth. One of the favorites so far seems to be Who's Your City. The argument of physical place seems to be counter the whole flat world movement. As I said before, while we may connect globally, we live and produce in the local.
What are your thoughts? I would love to invite a conversation with people who are most immersed in the creative economy -- David Armano, Bruce Nussbaum, Roger von Oech, Mike Wagner, Helen Walters and Jessi Hempel, David Miller, and Dan Pink. Dan has been posting a series of wonderful reports on design in Japan. [Garr Reynolds just posted an interview with Dan at Presentation Zen.]