Florida grand plan

The G&M has a story about the new report on Ontario’s compeitiveness.

Co-author Richard Florida rejects the bailing out of industries and says that Ontario must strive to be the world’s first jurisdiction to revolutionize routine work, to make it more creative and better paying.

The goal, he says, should be to raise the creative content of all jobs, including routine ones in the service sector.

The Florida metamorphosis has begun. 

Again, I like the vague concept of making all jobs creative and better paying but like all of Florida’s work (IMO) it floats out there with no real grounding.  How do you raise the creative content of jobs and how does that translate into more value to the consumer (and hence the better paying part)?

At one level, Florida is back to the future.  In the 1950s, futurists were predicting that machines and technology would virtually eliminate routine and mundane tasks.  Some were predicting the average work week would decline to 20 hours per week.  They were forecasting a kinder/gentler (almost Star Trekian) time when we would want for naught and work at a leisurely pace.  I seen hints of that thinking in Florida’s work.

The business world is the Serengeti Plain.  It’s the survival of the fittest. You have to work hard to succeed and so it should be.  Florida’s vision just plays into our new narcissistic tendencies.  You will never eliminate hard work. 

If Ontario drops its car manufacturing and spends billions to make its food service sector more creative, you will get far more funky logos and the guy serving hogies in the food court might sing to you but I seriously doubt you will do much for the Ontario economy.

The right approach is a balanced one realizing that the manufacturing sector was central to Ontario becoming what it has become.  Since WW2 the vast majority of all new manufacturing in Canada that is not tied to natural resources in a local area has gone into southern Ontario.  The province needs to figure out what 21st century manufacturing looks like and make sure that Ontario gets its share (or as has been the case far more than its share).

Then it does need to nurture its knowledge-based industries and spur innovation and creativity.  But in the food service and hotel sectors?


5 thoughts on “Florida grand plan

  1. Great post David. Entertaining and thought provoking.

    We are seeing what happens when an academic with little practical experience crosses over to the real world. Sort of like high fashion; no one actually wears those exagerated designs on the runways but some of the concepts are toned down and actually make it to the racks at Sears. Florida might have some interesting ideas but needs to stay put in his fantasy world and let business cherry pick the useful concepts.

  2. Florida is a joke, so let’s carry this one a bit further. Perhaps it is in NB’s to encourage ON to adopt Florida’s ‘idea’. Once its adoption drives ON in the wrong direction, we can say ‘hey, here in Nb we are open for business; come on down.’

    “academic with little practical experience crosses over to the real world.”

    That’s a very useful definition of the average business school (which is where Florida hangs out). Those guys are either (like military schools) fighting the last war, or, like Florida, they’re completely wonky. Its really a testament to the business community that they give these jokers funding.

  3. It sounds as if Florida has been reading Daniel Pink’s book, “A Whole New Mind,” which argues that with global competitiveness being what it is, creativity will be the largest arrow in North America’s quiver. I don’t disagree with the idea but I get frustrated by the either/or approach people often make, and the lack of a realistic view. For one thing, what does creative content consist of? To what degree can you be creative in serving a hamburger? Except for the design stage, how creative can you be in putting together a car? And where will the consumer base be to support this economy? What does full employment look like with all jobs being “creative”?

    The G&M story quotes the report referring to, ” … A whole new economic system that is based more on brain than brawn, more on ideas than capital, more on human creativity than natural resources and brute strength.” Fine. However, it strikes me that the world it describes would be one of possibly better paying jobs but also fewer of them, which is worrying because eventually you have no consumer base to support it, meaning even fewer jobs.

    Seriously, how many middle managers can you have and how creative can they be? (In my experience, not very.)

  4. Middle managers are either trying to secure their jobs by towing the party line or they are actually leaders making a short stop on the way to the top. If the latter, you might expect some creatively: if the former, it is not going to happen. Seeing as leaders are scarce and managers are abundant, don’t be expecting a creative wave.

  5. There’s a number of different issues there. I didn’t have much trouble with the criticism until you described the business world as the ‘Serengeti Plain’ and then added “and so it should be”. Really? And why is that? First of all its complete bollocks. You think Irving is out there with ‘cut throat’ competitors? We already commented on that on another blog, the big industrialists have almost NO competition. Rogers competition is Bell, and Bell’s competition is Rogers. Wow, how cut throat.

    But more importantly I hope at least you realize what a bleak future you guys are pointing for the future. Who DOESN”T want a star trekian future where people work less and enjoy life more. Are you seriously saying that it’s GOOD that people work 80 hour weeks with no holidays?

    At least Florida is saying something that makes the future sound GOOD. It’s understandable that in a disenfranchised economy some people would want to do whatever is necessary to bring it up to average, but that’s virtually guaranteed to get the next wave of entrepreneaurs AND workers want to get as far away as possible. Isn’t that the whole idea of developing an economy-to make it BETTER?

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