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Economic Prosperity Tied to Openness and Tolerance, says Richard Florida; Also, Thoughts on Inclusive, Distributed Leadership

Jun 27, 2007 • general, web-design

Richard FloridaThe Rise of the Creative Class is a phenomenal podcast by a world famous expert on urban economies, Richard Florida. Florida's point is that a region's economic prosperity is not based on having an abundance of companies with high-paying salaries. Instead, the prosperity depends on the degree of openness, tolerance, and quality of life in the area.

So even if companies in your area offer attractive, high-paying salaries, the creative class (which includes everyone but farmers, politicians, and factory workers) will still move to a place where openness and tolerance is embraced and the quality of life is abundant. (Quality of life refers to natural environment and city vibrancy.)

Openness and Tolerance in Management

Among other points covered in this podcast, Florida says he studied every Japanese car manufacturing plant to understand why they were superior to American car manufacturers. It had nothing to do with technology, he says. American car plants had the same machines, if not better ones.

The difference was in management. Americans made decisions top-down, but the Japanese included everyone on the floor with a voice. The Japanese were open and tolerant of the non-elite. Their management included the masses — this made their cars better.

In fact, Florida's father (who worked in a factory all his life) said the MBAs and other degree elites in the factory actually ruined the company. I assume it was because they squelched the subordinates' voices and gave the impression that only a small, highly educated elite could provide direction for the company.

My Thoughts

The future of leadership will be centered on a more inclusive, distributed model. In years past, the limits of technology may have made it difficult to gather collective voices from every employee. Now blogs, wikis, and forums make it much more possible to run a company or organization where everyone's voice can be heard.

From Florida's podcast, it seems apparent that companies that demonstrate openness and tolerance -- not only with political, religious, or moral views, but also in management, opening their doors to the voices of more than just a few -- will have more economic prosperity. They'll be open to more innovative ideas, be more aware of the flaws in their plans, more in tune with reality and alternative perspectives and approaches.

In turn, the underlings will have more motivation knowing they have a voice and aren't just drones. So on a macro level the openness invites economic prosperity for a region; on a micro level it invites prosperity at the company and possibly individual level.

More Resources

[Note: The podcast I listened to was actually slightly different -- a bit longer. For some reason I couldn't relocate it on the web. This is the closest page I could find. Landed.fm's site is down (radio silence day?). Even so, the Poptech speech on IT Conversations is fairly similar.]

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. Topics I write about on this blog include technical writing, authoring and publishing tools, API documentation, tech comm trends, visual communication, technical writing career advice, information architecture and findability, developer documentation, and more. If you're a professional or aspiring technical writer, be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here.