I was stunned this week to learn that Richard Florida had moved from the Washington, D.C. area to Toronto. He’s a hugely influential researcher on what makes geographies dynamic and prosperous, and he is taking his work to the highly esteemed Rotman School, led by the exceptional Roger Martin.
On the one hand, in a global world talent is highly mobile. But on the other, does Florida’s move indicate that the U.S. is going to be less attractive to that kind of talent?
It might mean that Florida sees Canada, and specifically Toronto rather than Washington or other U.S. cities, as having the right criteria for a geography of the future: open, diverse, tolerant and creative. Such a geography is making the shift from manufacturing to creativity as its economic engine.
Florida is not the only one working in this vein. Daniel Pink has said that creativity is the new international currency, and the current fascination in business with the idea of collaboration and the plethora of tech tools to achieve it has to do with the goal of encouraging creative thinking among workers.
Are we in the U.S. seeing a pattern of laws and regulations that promote insularity, the opposite of curiosity and openness on which creativity thrives? Is our famously un-curious President the emblem of our post 9/11 culture?
Whether it is Mexican manual laborers or Chinese and Indian engineers, our immigration policies indicate we are concerned about “the others.” But we’re not just keeping out workers, who by contributing to cultural diversity in the past have exposed Americans to lots of ideas, but artists too.
What would American music and the music industry been like without the British invasion of 1964?
The WSJ today writes that due to post 9/11 immigration and visa policies, “some companies say they have had more trouble bringing in talented people from abroad.”
Maybe that’s why the Toronto Film Festival has become a global magnet lately. There are indeed alternatives to New York and Los Angeles.
Florida has warned in his recent writing that the U.S. could lose in this creative economy. But we literally cannot afford to lose. We can’t rest on our laurels, now that Stockholm, Krakow, Tallinn, Buenos Aires, Vancouver, Shanghai, Mexico City, Melbourne, Dublin, Dakar and Kuala Lumpur are producing powerfully creative ideas about work, life, science, education — all the things that the 21st century is transforming.
Does Florida’s move mean that we’re already shutting down?