In his book The Rise of the Creative Class, Dr. Richard Florida states that the three essential ingredients to attracting the creative class to your community are technology, talent and tolerance. Dr. Florida feels that the economy’s need for this creative workforce will be so compelling that companies will locate where creative workers are rather than asking them to relocate. He contends that the future’s successful communities will be those that can attract the creative class, because these workers will be key to helping a community thrive.
A number of communities intend to implement Dr. Florida’s theories either wholly or in part. Memphis, Tennessee has an excellent website that describes their efforts to do so.
As we attempt to apply his concepts, we need to reflect on what each segments means. The hardest one for me is tolerance. I have difficulty with this concept because I don’t feel that tolerance is key, but that acceptance is. None of us want to live in a place where we are simply tolerated. But we do want to be where we are fully accepted, valued, and even celebrated.
Why is acceptance so important to creatives? Many of us in the creative class lead less- than-standard lifestyles. We tend to see and experience things differently, and therein lies the rub. Many people have trouble tolerating difference, let alone accepting or celebrating it. Prejudice, tradition, and a personal sense of righteousness can be tough obstacles to overcome. Creatives can feel stymied in communities where difference is met with strong resistance.
But look at how nature itself argues for diversity. Have you ever noticed that children are not exact copies of their parents (except when cloned!)? Why does nature make “flawed” copies of our DNA when we reproduce, rather than perfect copies? Nature knows we would become extinct because the viruses and bacteria that attack us are continuously changing and trying new ways to overcome our resistance to them. If we were all exact copies and they continued to change, they would eventually find the right “combination” to unlock our defenses.
Similarly, communities need to continue to evolve and change in order to have viable economies. Diversity is the key to creativity and innovation. Without new thoughts and ideas our economy would become stale, shrivel and die.
Tolerance–and even better, acceptance–bring about diversity, innovation and creativity. All these are elements of our survival, physically and economically. Three cheers for acceptance!