Creative Class – Welcome to the World of the New Creatives

"My colleague only wears black", Birgit comments about the new person. "Of course", answers Markus with a laugh. "He works in the creative department". Regardless of whether little everyday clichés hold true or not – one thing always applies: creativity in today's working world has long ceased to be limited to job descriptions of special departments. Inventiveness and problem-solving ability are in demand almost everywhere.

The Era of the Knowledge Economy

Knowledge is the central raw material of our time – that much is clear. However, static knowledge alone is not enough – you only reap real benefits when information is shared, knowledge is processed and finally, something new emerges. This is when creatives are in demand. But who are they? Only artists, designers, advertising experts and developers - or are we all creatives? Of course each of us carries the potential within us, and we often use it, but in the past, creativity in the workplace never had the high value assigned to it today. Before the dawn of the knowledge era and the nascent knowledge economy, linear work processes ruled the day. Routine was more important than creativity. It was enough to quickly and accurately use something learned once; it was less important to develop something new.

This has changed profoundly in recent decades. Routine jobs have been on the decline while jobs that require complex communication and analytical work are on the rise. Almost 80% of all working people in the developed countries today pursue a career that focuses upon processing information – that’s quite a few people. No wonder then that creativity and innovation are more in demand today than ever before, and that this kind of work has overcome its novelty phase.

Creativity as a Corporate Value

Another development is also interesting in this context: surveys show that intangible assets have become more important today than tangible assets – 68% of business owners confirm this, and 28% assign equal value to both kinds of assets. This means that criteria such as brand value, expertise, innovative power and patents are worth a lot of money. The number of patents has risen rapidly since 2000 – in 2007, twice as many patents were submitted as seven years ago. Creativity has therefore become an extremely significant business factor for companies.

The Creative Class

Industries such as design, advertising, architecture, music, film and art all belong to the "classic", well-known "creative industry". Clearly, creativity is the key factor in the work performed here. It may surprise some, but in Germany, for example, the cultural and creative economy is in third place in terms of value creation, only outranked by mechanical engineering and the automobile industry.

In his book "The Rise of the Creative Class" (2002), the American sociologist Richard Florida goes one step further in assessing the significance of creativity for the economy. Florida argues that the "creative class" is actually the defining economic foundation of a society! He classifies over a third of all American employees to the creative class – and they are responsible for about half of the gross national product. Of course, we should point out that Richard Florida defines the "creative class" somewhat more expansively. At the core are those people whose primary task is to create something. Their innovations lead to new products, optimised processes and new insights. In addition, Florida considers the so-called creative professionals part of the creative class. This includes for example attorneys, professors, managers, consultants, software developers, engineers, physicians and others – and with good reason, because even if their primary task is not to create something new, independent thinking and creative problem-solving are required skills – these professional groups are frequently confronted with complex tasks.

Where are creatives going?

Florida also examines which regions are attractive for members of the highly mobile creative class, identifying three factors that have a major influence on where creatives choose to live: technology, talent and tolerance. While the first two factors have long been recognised, Florida introduces a new aspect with tolerance. Tolerance is defined as openness and receptiveness for something new – to measure a region's tolerance, Florida examined how marginal groups were dealt with, e.g. homosexuals and artists. He attempts to use this "Bohemian Index" to ascertain how many artists live in a region. Florida’s hypothesis: wherever tolerance rules, artists can be found, and wherever artists live, chances are high that other creatives will also live there. A broad spectrum of diverse personalities leads to a lively exchange of new ideas. And the economy flourishes with these new ideas.

Cities and regions are well-advised to create an attractive environment for the creative class, as according to Florida there is already global competition for creative talent. This competition – according to Florida’s argument in his later publications, such as "The Flight of the Creative Class" (2006) – will play the decisive role in the economy of the twenty-first century.

What ties creatives together

What binds this group of new creatives together? The answer is simple: a high level of autonomy and flexibility. They develop new things independently and without instructions that will shape the present and the future.

It is also clear that such a concept for living and working doesn’t only have positive features. Because there is often no support whenever someone fails.
Some feel themselves forced into a rather burdensome self-employment in which flexibility becomes a constraint and the precarious path out of the "Me Corporation" is difficult.

Creative Communities

Networks that build up mutual aid and inspiration achieve something crucial, and not only in these cases. They create a lively environment for enthusiastic creatives. The Uchronia Community, for example, was founded by the Belgian star designers Jan Kriekels and Arne Quinze. They want to combine creativity with spirituality. This means reflecting on one’s own values, avoiding ideologies and turning toward a model of global understanding. The concept works: the community is growing and producing new products, ideas and concepts.

Another kind of community for creatives can be found at three locations in Vienna: at the Schraubenfabrik, the Hutfabrik and Rochus Park. Creative workers can rent office space here under the motto: "Yesterday the home office, today community". Whoever feels like the ceiling is closing in on them and would rather spend the day with kindred spirits instead of sitting alone at home finds an inspiring work environment at these spaces. It’s a fertile ground for cooperation and synergies. For example, if you need a graphic designer, you just go to the office across the way instead of looking for one elsewhere. And the fun factor shouldn’t be ignored – at parties and vernissages, the more the merrier.