The Creative Economy is a Sham.


Back in April I was invited to testify at the Joint Committee Hearing on California’s Creative Economy chaired by Senator Ben Allen. Senator Allen has been working hard to increase funding by the State of California for the Arts and Art Education. I’m embarrassed to say, we California currently ranks 50th among all states.

The centerpiece of the hearing was the 2014 Otis Report on the Creative Economy. It contains some pretty impressive numbers:

The total Gross State Product for California is $2.2 trillion.The total Creative Industry contribution to that number is $249 billion—or 8.1%.And that number is even more impressive when you consider Farming, Fishing, and Timber contribute just 2% to California’s GSP.The Creative Industry accounted for 9.6% of all jobs in California in 2014.

What struck me when reading the Otis Report was how profoundly the government categorization of what is and is not a creative job affects the calculus of how much the Creative Industry contributes to our economy. And just how false the government’s creativity distinctions are.

Forget the job numbers on the chart below and check out the legend. That’s where the Big Creative Job Lie appears.

Sure, those jobs require creativity, special skills, expertise, and talent.

But what job doesn’t?

What challenge confronting an individual, organization, community, society, or species does not demand creativity, special skills, expertise, and talent?

And where are the many creative roles that drive innovation across Technology, Health Care, Energy, Finance, Government, Defense, or many other industries not represented in that legend?

Because, when you get right down to it the Creative Industry is a false ghetto and the Creative Economy is sham.

A ghetto because the definition of the Creative Industry draws an artificial boundary around a subset of jobs, labeling them creative, and by inference, all other jobs not.

A sham because the narrow definition of what constitutes a creative occupation results in a massive understatement of the true size of the Creative Economy.

Both contribute to how little we invest in both. The “Creatives” become the others. And the true scope of the contribution of creativity to the rest of our industries is made invisible.

Which brings us back to my hearing testimony.

I was one of the “Creatives” invited to share our stories. Mine pivots on the realization that we are all born ingenious—and that Think Wrong Practices are the secret to unlocking the creativity of those who do not see themselves as, or who have been told they are not, capable of it.

It is my belief, proven again and again through experience, that the solutions we imagine with those “Non-creatives” are always better than what we “Creatives” might dream up on our own.

Which seem like a pretty good case for investing more in that. 

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