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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Creativity: Dead or Alive?







For those of you who are familiar with Mosaic, a community strewn about the Los Angeles area, you may have heard the term Yelo. Yelo describes a group of people that community leader, Erwin McManus, desires because they are viewed to be catalysts for influence and change. This Yelo group is also described to be highly creative and innovative. While I was in NYC with some of the Mosaic crew I asked Erwin a question…

“Is there a linear correlation between being creative and having influence?” I asked.

“No,” Erwin stated as if I had asked him if Jesus wore a backwards hat.

Well that was easy. In retrospect, my question was probably not as pointed as I intended. What I really wanted to know was, are “high creatives” (because all of us are creative…just some more than others) the people that have the most potential to move the world towards good?

After further questioning, Erwin agreed. He said that high creatives have the highest capacity for influence and the greatest Yelo potential. He said that in most cases, those who are highly creative do not desire influence because their lens of life begins and ends with themselves. High Creatives tend to stay within themselves.

As E-McMan shared that, I thought of a city. My newish home. Seattle, Washington.


Yet another man on the front edge of creativity study, Richard Florida, has a series of books that rally around the Creative Class. The Creative Class is a group of individuals who work and move in creative industries. These industries include… scientists and engineers, university professors, poets and architects, and musicians just to name a few. Seattle was in the top 5 for cities with Creative Class inhabitants. In other words we have a lot of scientists reverse engineering really expensive coffee while trying to figure out how to turn rain into a anti-depressant.

After analyzing the Creative Class Florida began to study creative cities. After a number of studies he found the top 15 cities with the most creative potential. These cities included San Francisco (Home of the esteemed OBC), Austin (isn’t that place just cowboys and make up drenched college girls?), aaannnnnnd SEATTLE.

So Seattle has an enormous number of Creative Class members as well as a ridiculous amount of creative potential and If you look around you will see it! I often argue with some of buddies in LA, that Seattle is actually more innovative than any state in the US. Microsoft, Adobe, Starbucks, Tully’s, REI, The North Face, Nordstrom, Washington Mutual, Amazon.com, Safeco, Jones Soda, Taco Del Mar, Getty Images, Real Networks, Sur La Table, Red Robin, The Little Gym, Nintendo, and the list could go on and on all began or continue to thrive in the Seattle area. All of these companies are pioneers for there industry. Seattle is incredibly innovative…they just pull stuff out of thin air. People in Seattle are constantly using their individuality to invent, rediscover, and engineer. So now that it is established that Seattle is highly creative…let’s see if there is that correlation I was asking Erwin about…do we have influence?

Well on my search for an answer, a statistic caught me by surprise. As reported a number of months ago, Seattle, a very affluent city, was found to be the least philanthropic. For all of you who do not want to google that word, Seattle was found to be the least generous city in the country.

So here is what Seattle has going on…money+creativity+innovation=the generosity of Scrooge

Do you have to be generous or philanthropic to be influential? I’m not sure. But I am pretty sure that it helps. I address our stinginess not to say that is definitely in opposition of influence, but to note that just as Erwin mentioned, high creatives often do not look beyond themselves.

So here is where I am left…can a city that is highly creative change their lens? Can we begin to use our creativity for positive influence? Can we stop relying on Bill Gates and Paul Allen to carry the load of influence? How do we move high creatives to have positive influence on the world? Can Seattle stop waiting for their arts to leak to the main stream and begin to see ALL creativity as a movement that can inspire hope to those who are in desperate need? Can we stop looking to use our creativity to make money and gain popularity and see it as a gift that we possess that can move other’s to a common good?

Enough about my city…what do you think about your city’s creativity? Is all of my creative chatter too obscure for you? What do you think about your personal creativity? Are you using your creativity to influence others to good?

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fred said...

Can you provide a link to the study that determined we are the least generous? I have read elsewhere (probably Wall Street Journal) that conservatives are more likely to donate to charities / good causes, I wonder if that includes donations to their church.

fred said...

Additional thought:
Is Seattle's willingness to tax themselves for schools, parks, zoo, libraries, etc. as well as willingness for government to support arts and human services a substitute for personal giving? i.e. more like the European approach where they pay higher taxes but the non-profit sector is relatively undeveloped.

JBS said...


Those are great questions. I will find the study ASAP. I should have noted it.

Perhaps you have something with your questions regarding a "European approach" to giving. It would be interesting to see if Seattle community members truly are "willing" to be taxed for these causes or if they are simply ignorant to what they are being taxed for.

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