THE BLOG

Many Nations Sending The Wrong Message About the Creative Economy

The European Commission (EC), like many nations around the world, often embrace the notion that the creative economy includes:

• Core arts areas: performing arts, visual arts, cultural and architectural heritage and, literature.

• Cultural industries: film, DVD and video, television and radio, video games, new media, music, books and press, and

• Creative industries: industries, which use culture as an input, including architecture, advertising, design and fashion.

John Howkins, author of The Creative Economy, like the EC, excited countries all over the world with the idea that the sector of the economy growing faster than any other sector was the so-called creative industries sector, which he, too, defined as including industries like radio and television, publishing, art and fashion--even software, toys and games.

That is true, but misses the point, a really important point about the challenge and the opportunity before all nations in the world.

In fairness, not everyone in Europe or elsewhere in the world so narrowly defines the reach of creativity, but the hesitancy to adopt the more expansive view is a problem.

Even Business Week (BW), now known as Bloomberg Business Week, once said,

" Now the Industrial Economy is giving way to the Creative Economy, and corporations are at another crossroads. Attributes that made them ideal for the 20th century could cripple them in the 21st. So they will have to change, dramatically."

Within a few months however, BW began talking about the Age of Innovation. Not creativity per se. Why one wonders? Probably because the business folks who depend on BW thought the magazine was no longer talking to them.

Yet, as Sir Ken Robinson, international expert on creativity has said, "We are all born creative...then it gets squeezed out of us by the 4th grade."

Does that mean we can all be an Einstein or a Picasso. No, probably not, but it does mean more of us can succeed and prosper in the new Creative and Innovation Economy.

Too many of us think creative people are artists or painters or musicians. Yes, but again so are doctors and lawyers, educators, politicians and business people. We can be divergent as well as convergent thinkers and doers. Divergent thinking is the ability to draw on ideas from across disciplines and fields of inquiry to reach a deeper understanding of things, where as convergent thinking presents open-ended problems and encourages the development of more creative solutions to problems.

With apologies to John Howkins, all industries and all sectors of the economy are or should be seen as creative industries in the rapidly evolving global economy. This is not just nice but absolutely necessary. Because of outsourcing, off shoring and automation, we are already starting to see losses in employment.

Daniel Bell, author and Harvard sociologist, in his 1973 book The Coming Post-Industrial Society, looked backward in time and noted how the invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney transformed the farm, forced people into the cities and created what we now call the Industrial Revolution. Computers and telecommunications, like the cotton gin of an earlier era, were bringing about yet another shift in the economy that he called the post-industrial society. Bell's treatise was the first significant effort to identify structural changes in society leading to the Information Age.

Yet here we are struggling to define yet another shift in the basic structure of the world's economy. We know it's global, and Thomas Friedman of the New York Times has told us it's "flat." But it is creativity -- simply defined as "the quality or ability to create or invent something original" -- that best defines the characteristic most of us need to succeed in the new economy.

What is important is that we recognize that a whole new economy and society based upon creativity and innovation is emerging and that, as a consequence, it is of vital importance that we reinvent our communities, our schools, our businesses, our government to meet the challenges such major structural shifts are compelling.

Every man, woman and child needs to know and understand that the tectonic plates of the world's economy have shifted. The task of recreating any city -- housing, transportation, roads and bridges, clean water electricity, schools etc. -- is enormous. The task of creating a knowledge city, a creative and innovative community, is equally complex.

Cities must prepare their citizens to take ownership of their communities, build the broadband communications structures the workplace needs, and educate the next generation of leaders and workers to meet the new global challenges of what just has now been termed the Creative and Innovative Economy.

These are the ingredients so essential to developing and attracting the type of bright and creative people that generate new patents and inventions, innovative world-class products and services and the finance and marketing plans to support them.