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The new force in the work world -- the 'creative class'

Which CIO will have an edge? Advice dispensed at the BetterManagement Live conference went well beyond what you'd hear in a typical business school class.

LAS VEGAS – Crackin' the whip just doesn't cut it like it used to.

The corporate Indiana Joneses aren't worth keeping up with because anyone can crack a whip. It takes a special kind of leader to motivate people. And to motivate them, you have to understand them.

That was the message of the opening keynote at the BetterManagement Live conference, delivered by Richard Florida, Heinz Professor of Economic Development at Carnegie Mellon University and author of The Rise of the Creative Class.

CEOs, CIOs and other executives have to understand that people and their creativity -- not the latest technological toys or a staff with the fanciest degrees -- power economic growth. Successful execs know how to harness that creativity, and they will lead what Florida calls the "creative class."

Florida defined the "creative class" as being made up of people who use their unique, intrinsic gifts to contribute to a company, whether they're software developers, musicians or writers. This creative class, he said, has doubled in size since 1980, and it now accounts for half of all the wages and salaries paid in the U.S. -- as much as the manufacturing and services sectors combined.

In days gone by, it was easy to motivate, say, the manufacturing class: Offer a secure job for life -- one where there's always a chicken in the pot, a car in the garage and benefits that cover the kids' braces. But times have changed, and the creative class can't be "bribed" with such material things, Florida said. Money (or stock options) doesn't motivate these "post-materialists." Their motivation is intrinsic. They have to be treated like volunteers who love what they do.

Your job, as the successful CIO, is to harness the creative spark that drives them, Florida said. And there are three key ways to do it.

First, challenge them and give them responsibility. Expect great things from them -- and make them accountable.

Second, give them flexibility, and let them work on their own terms. Members of the creative class value the ability to control their lives, and they don't like to keep a Berlin Wall-type separation between their work life and their home life. Understand that life happens during the day, too.

Third, give them the chance to work with great people, who also bring their intrinsic talents to the table. This sense of community, along with challenge and flexibility, can fill the void creative workers feel -- the void that comes when a good wage and job security just aren't enough.

The sense of community is particularly important. Florida said that the average creative class worker changes jobs every three years, and twentysomethings typically spend less than one year at a job before they turn in their notice. But these job hoppers don't necessarily move to another city. Florida said this means that geography is important to the creative class. They want to live in a place where they can go from one job they enjoy to another without having to pack up, move and disrupt their lives. "People want the same great things in a community that they want in a company," Florida said. "Creative people want a place with energy."

Florida called it a "territorial edge" -- where that something in the air makes a city more desirable, whether it's a vibrant music or arts scene, biking or hiking trails or professional sports. Business execs that want to harness creativity should go where the creative people are and harness their talents. Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Carly Fiorina knew that, Florida said, citing a speech she gave wherein she claimed that her company goes where the skilled, creative people are located.

"The people climate is more important than the business climate," Florida said. "The Bohemian index can predict growth better than the economic index."


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