Alain Giguère

On my radar this week

Perspectives

Our take on various "sujets du jour" and stuff we want to share.

CROP in the news

You can quote that.

RSS Feed

Features

Our Blog

Welcome to our blog, a creative space for free thinking, ideas and inspiration!

The creative class: 22% of the country’s population! (and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg by Richard Wagner)

Categories: Alain Giguère

Posted on 05-15-17 at 1:57 p.m.

Creativity as a form of personal expression

On the eve of next week's C2 Montréal, the immersive conclave combining commerce and creativity at Arsenal, I wanted to explore the expression of creativity in our country. There are several ways to measure creativity in a society. Richard Florida became famous in the early 2000s for pointing out the enormous economic value of the employees working in the companies that he classified as "creative" (The Rise of the Creative Class, Basic Books, 2002). Another measure is the number of patents filed, also a good indicator of a society's vitality, creativity and innovation.

But one can also measure a lesser-known phenomenon, one that I like to call the "need to create." Even though many people work in so-called creative companies, they don't all play creative roles (we wouldn't want bookkeepers in ad agencies to get too creative with their accounting, after all!). Of course, many do have tailor-made "creative" jobs that capitalize on their need to create.

The genius inventor has always been a fixture in society. He responds to "the need creates the organ" imperative by finding a creative solution to a specific problem (e.g., Joseph-Armand Bombardier and his invention of the snowmobile when he couldn't get help for his sick child because of snow-blocked roads).

In today's world, where many people are highly motivated by a need for self-expression, the need to create, to feel creative in one's daily activities no matter how trivial, has become inescapable and unstoppable (at work and at play), to the point where people will quit their jobs if they are unable to express their creativity.

One very simple statement in our surveys has allowed us to identify these individuals: "Throughout my various daily activities, it is very important for me to feel creative."

The need to express one's creativity: 22% of the population (perfectly equivalent throughout the country)

To use the expression coined by Richard Florida, I would consider people who "totally agree" with this statement to belong to our "creative class" because they need to be creative on a full time basis! No matter what type of work they do, these "creatives" represent an incredible force that companies, organisations and society need to find a way to capitalize on.

True, much of this creativity will find expression in recreational activities and hobbies, but we certainly have an opportunity to use it to create value in our society (no matter how you define it).

Younger age groups (those under 35 years of age) have the highest percentages of creative people. We know that many of the greatest artists, inventors and scientists have done their best work before their thirties.

Consequently, it should come as no surprise that creativity declines with age! It's as if, when people get older, they take comfort in the known, the predictable, the easily classifiable. Whereas younger people are excited by the unknown and want to reinvent the world!

Creativity is nourished by difference, by others, by novelty

Given the tremendous openness in the personal-values profile of the creative class, companies should be able to optimize the creativity in their organisations.


Those belonging to the creative class are very open to social diversity and continuously seek close and meaningful interactions with the people around them (whether they are well known or not). They want to discover other people, to be inspired by them, to feed on difference, to create a new world based on a "cultural melting pot." Difference and the stimulation arising from the human contact and discoveries associated with it seems to be one of the basic nutrients essential to creativity.

Openness to change also plays an essential role. Even when an organisation's business model is being disrupted, the novelty and new paradigms introduced by change become opportunities for different thinking and creativity.

The creative class has a strong desire for self-improvement. These people are aware of their potential and want to realize it at all costs. They have an irrepressible desire to express themselves, and creativity, whether they initiate or contribute to a creative project, is an ideal vehicle.

The "non-creatives" are also very interesting. They do not believe in the virtues of change; they only see the negatives! They decode what they see, or "discover," using ideas from the past. For them, creativity threatens the precious stability of their world order!


The opportunities for companies and organisations

We must harness this vitality. Give it its rightful place within the organization. Allow it to express itself, to emerge. Workplaces should be designed to encourage meetings and exchanges. Diversity should be promoted. Employees should be encouraged to express at work the same creativity they bring to their leisure activities. Organize meetings that bring people with different skill sets together to discuss creative ways of tackling problems. Bring together the most creative people from various backgrounds. Let them encourage other, less creative people who are still open to creativity, etc.

In this context, it is understandable that many "creative" companies in the United States are opposed to President Trump's immigration policies!

Architecture and design are crucial: open spaces, encouraging meetings and discussion, artwork, employee creations, common spaces, etc.

Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

A wonderful example of creativity colliding with tradition in society is this clip from Wagner's opera, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. A guild of artisans and mastersingers have, over the years, developed extremely rigid rules for their song contests. When one of their members introduces a newcomer with innovative and creative musical ideas, they reject him out of hand (although he triumphs at the end of the opera) ... Sublime!

Wagner - Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg / Heppner, Mattila, Morris, Pape, Allen, Polenzani, Levine, The Metropolitan Opera, New York, 2005, Deutsche Grammophon.