Connecting With The Creative Class

By Fatmanur Erdogan, Hürriyet Daily News

Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen the rise of the “Creative Class”, a new breed of people who relish the intensity of life, who pride themselves on their openness and who love to push the boundaries of science, art, and commerce.  Members of this class think big, and they think broad.  They are opening new doors, creating new things and taking their companies in new directions.  They bravely lead the way down paths no one else even knew existed, until the creative class pointed them out.

Richard Florida describes these people in his book, “The Rise of the Creative Class”.  They prefer to live lives filled with color and richness, in places where tolerance rules and diversity is welcomed.  They like a lively street culture, preferring sidewalk cafes, outdoor musicians, and neighborhood galleries to the more formal settings of museums and opera halls.  They cherish excitement and high energy, and they are open to new ideas and perspectives.

At first, the creative class clustered around cities like San Francisco, Boston, and San Diego.  Florida wrote about America’s creative class, but he noted that this was a very international group of people.  When he coined the term “creative class”, he made many Turks, Brazilians, Indians, Italians, Spaniards and others who had been recruited by American firms proud. They were no longer just immigrants who were in America to benefit from its economic resources, they were there to help create the future.

In recent years, though, that creative class has been spreading back out around the world.  Indians are leaving Silicon Valley for Melbourne, Italians are leaving New York for Buenos Aires, and Americans are leaving Seattle for Shanghai.  In the past, creative networks were clustered around a few cities, but now they are scattered around the globe, and their members are using technology to keep them buzzing with life.

As a result, the “Creative Class” is now becoming the “Connected Class”.

You probably know some of these people, and in fact, you might even be one of them.  They love social networking sites, and they are experts on their use.  They get their news on the web, they keep up with the latest blogs, and they watch ads on instead of on TV.

They used to sit with their friends at sidewalk cafés in Boston, chatting excitedly about their latest ideas.  Now they live on different continents, but their bonds are as tight as ever.  They are still chatting excitedly about their latest ideas, but they are gathering at a virtual café called the internet.  In this virtual café they continue building their creative communities, sharing what they know, and inspiring each other.

Companies in Turkey would love to get imaginative, forward-thinking employees like these.  With a workforce rich in the creative class, a company can quickly pull ahead of its competitors and become a leader in its industry.  The government, too, is trying to foster innovation, providing big incentives to the private sector for research and development.

However, your company’s good intentions and the government’s subsidies aren’t enough for the creative class.  If your employees spend the day chained to a desk from 8:00 to 6:00, or wasting time in meetings, or working at computers with half the internet blocked, you are not going to attract these workers.  You might consider social networking sites a waste of company time, but those creative dynamos you’d love to hire might use them to keep in touch with international networks of knowledgeable friends who will help them solve thorny problems in minutes, simply because that’s what they’ve always done for each other.

Your entire company needs these people, not just your R&D and marketing departments, so look closely at every corner of your company to find areas that need the openness to attract them.  Moving towards hands-off management and a more horizontal organizational structure might be difficult, but if you want to lead your industry in innovation, you have to take the leap of faith and do it.  The creative class is not interested in those who play it safe.

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