News
Commentary
7/3/2002
02:06 PM
Commentary
Commentary
Commentary
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Business Technology: Where The Skilled Folks Are

I'd like to suggest a book that will likely change the way you think about yourself, your career, your profession, your employer, and your future. I'm confident that even if you don't agree with some or even most of what the author contends, you'll still find it thought-provoking, stimulating, and well worth having read. The book is The Rise of the Creative Class, by Richard Florida. It's a vibrant and fast-paced romp that touches on economics, sociology, and psychology but is centered on some severely stress-tested data around which the author has fashioned a theory positing that personal creativity is the dominant force in today's economy and society. Florida, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz School of Public Policy and Management and a frequent contributor to InformationWeek, treats the reader to a series of challenging new ideas--from The Creative Community to Creative Class Values to The Efficient Use of Leisure to his poignant and powerfully relevant recollections of childhood conversations with his father, a master craftsman at a manufacturer of eyeglass frames. Drawing on those memories and leaning on extensive research he and his team have recently completed, Florida argues in favor of the linkage of the "Three Ts": Technology, Talent, and Tolerance. "These qualities are important to high-tech workers and Creative Class people in general for a couple of reasons," he writes. "To begin with, many are immigrants or people moving from one region of the country to another. Many grew up being stereotyped as nerds; some have extreme habits and dress. All want places where they can fit in and live as they please without raising eyebrows."

I could imagine that some readers might think this a lot of pseudo-scientific claptrap. Well, consider this line from much earlier in the book from someone in an extremely influential position in the technology industry: "As Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina once told this nation's governors: 'Keep your tax incentives and highway interchanges; we will go where the highly skilled people are.'"

Amid the debates, the nuclear-plant owners are working with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to wrestle with such questions as: What is the real vulnerability of nuclear plants? How does the industry deal with local laws that limit the use of weapons? What type of attack might terrorists mount and what size force would be needed to deal with it? ... David N. Orrik, a former Navy SEAL who runs such tests for the NRC, recently told a House Commerce subcommittee that in 81 tests the NRC has staged since 1991, attackers in 37 got to parts of the nuclear-power plant where a real act of sabotage could have led "in many cases to a probable radioactive release." He said the industry's 46% failure rate hadn't improved before Sept. 11. The tests were canceled after that date because they would have interfered with the high-alert status of the guards.

--The Wall Street Journal,
July 3, 2002



And where exactly are those skilled people, and why do they go there? The book offers plenty of research data that, depending on your outlook, either supports Florida's ideas or makes you want to rip your hair out. The book is not comfortable--not at all--for those who want things to stay pretty much the same, or who want some degree of mechanistic, low-change order and predictability in their lives. But from reading the book and having had plenty of conversations with the author, I feel his goal wasn't merely to act as provocateur; rather, Florida's research and experiences over the past decade have given him the foundation on which to build a new view of business reality that's of enormous import to businesses of all kinds as they think about strategies for hiring; selecting locations; evaluating, compensating, and motivating employees; establishing new organizational structures; developing new products and services; and preparing to compete in a business world that the author contends will be driven and dominated by this newly emergent Creative Class. That thinking is captured in these lines from the ends of two chapters:

"The deep and enduring changes of our age are not technological but social and cultural. They are thus harder to see, for they result from the gradual accumulation of small, incremental changes in our day-to-day lives. These changes have been building for decades and are only now coming to the fore. ... We are now living through another large-scale economic transformation, the creative transformation, the main contours of which I have already outlined. As we have seen, its roots can be traced to the 1940s and 1950s--many of its key systems arose in response to the creative limits of the organizational age--and it came to full bloom in the 1980s and 1990s. During this time, we have seen the emergence of new economic systems explicitly designed to foster and harness human creativity, and the emergence of a new social milieu that supports it. And it has given rise to a new dominant class, the topic to which I now turn."

An addition to your summer reading list? Let me know why or why not.

Bob Evans
Editor-in-Chief
bevans@cmp.com


To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Bob Evans's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The Business of Going Digital
The Business of Going Digital
Digital business isn't about changing code; it's about changing what legacy sales, distribution, customer service, and product groups do in the new digital age. It's about bringing big data analytics, mobile, social, marketing automation, cloud computing, and the app economy together to launch new products and services. We're seeing new titles in this digital revolution, new responsibilities, new business models, and major shifts in technology spending.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest - August 27, 2014
Who wins in cloud price wars? Short answer: not IT. Enterprises don't want bare-bones IaaS. Providers must focus on support, not undercutting rivals.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Howard Marks talks about steps to take in choosing the right cloud storage solutions for your IT problems
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.