Focus on Creative Workers, Not Firms

Creative workers, not necessarily creative firms, are the source of innovation and should be the focus of city and rural recruitment efforts.Richard Florida, who coined the notion of a creative class, says creative workers, not the companies they work for, should be the focus of nurturing public policies. This could be good news for rural areas that can create their own unique ways to lure creative workers to their innovation-seeking industries.

In a piece written for The Atlantic Cities, Florida cites a new white paper by a United Kingdom think tank that says creative workers are more responsible for job-creating innovation than the group of companies known as creative firms.

Florida says the white paper from the London School of Economics concludes the track record of innovation by creative firms isn't much different than companies in other industry sectors. The researchers found that a large percentage of the creative workers responsible for innovation were employed by firms outside the creative sector.

"Creative workers play a substantially greater role in innovation," Florida says. "According to the study, creative workers were a 'significant driver of product innovations overall' and a 'key driver of learned process innovations.’"

That led Florida to suggest a slight tilt in public policies to encourage recruitment or immigration of creative workers as much or more so than creative firms. He also says the study's findings suggest policies aimed at helping creative workers channel their contributions into actual innovations. 

A key distinction is creative workers in a wide variety of industries can flourish anywhere, not just in high-toned urban areas, Florida says. Cities play a key role in attracting creative workers, who have multiple job opportunities, chances to share information and cultural amenities. But lifestyle opportunities and access to continuing education also may be a draw for creative workers to rural areas with companies seeking to innovate.

"At bottom, their finding suggest the need to shift from firm-based policies to more talent-based approaches," Florida says. "It's time to stop the old 'industrial policy' approach of subsidizing private firms and industries and focus instead on developing the broader creativity of workers."