Posted on Friday 10 May 2013 by Ulster Business

Richard Florida

Richard Florida, author and Senior Editor of The Atlantic, as well as a Professor at the University of Toronto and NYU, speaks to Ulster Business ahead of the EBN Conference in Derry.

The theme of your lecture at the EBN conference is "cultural innovation" – how do you define cultural innovation?

For me, cultural innovation is the constant improvement and refinement of the way we approach business, arts, creativity and our everyday lives. Whether through technology or the improvement of how we tap into the creativity of our citizens, cultural innovation is a process that is constantly repeating and refining.

Is cultural innovation an organic phenomenon or can it be planned?

Cultural innovation can be both. But most importantly it requires tapping into the creativity of everyone. Just as I wrote in The Rise of the Creative Class, I still believe every single human being is creative. For the first time in human history, the basic logic of improving our economy and driving business innovation requires the further development and use of human creative capabilities. The great challenge of our time is to find ways to tap into every human's creativity.

Is there evidence to suggest common traits in the most innovative companies?

Sure. The most innovative companies do three things to help drive innovation and creativity. First, innovative companies eliminate the distractions for their creative workers; this allows employees to remain fully engaged in their work. Second, innovative companies take an active role to help spark the creativity of their workers. This includes developing authentic work environments and spaces that help to engage creative workers. Finally, creativity is embedded in relationships, and it thrives among people who have worked together a long time.

What would be your message to a city like Derry, which aspires to become a hub for creative, digital and hi-tech industries?

It goes back to the three T's of economic development: Talent, Technology, and Tolerance. The 3T's approach represents a comprehensive strategy for cities like Derry to compete and prosper in the creative age.

The driving force behind any effective economic strategy is talented people. We live in a more mobile age than ever before. People, especially top creative talent, move around a lot. A community's ability to attract and retain top talent is the defining issue of the creative age.

Technology and innovation are critical components of a community or organisation's ability to drive economic growth. To be successful, communities and organisations must have the avenues for transferring research, ideas, and innovation into marketable and sustainable products. Universities are paramount to this.

Economic prosperity relies on cultural, entrepreneurial, civic, scientific, and artistic creativity. Creative workers with these talents need communities, organisations, and peers that are open to new ideas and different people. Places receptive to immigration, alternative lifestyles, and new views on social status and power structures will benefit significantly in the creative age.

Based on your Creative Class theories, what are the prospects for Ireland?

Future prospects for Ireland are good. The economic down turn has dramatically impacted and reshaped our economic geography. Places with diversified economies and high concentrations of highly educated people and those that work in the "creative class" have done much better in weathering the current economic storm. Ireland has a large creative class – more the 39% of the workforce. The key will be continuing to focus on nurturing creative industries and building cities and communities that are authentic and provide a high quality of life.


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