Now Reading: Who’s Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life, by Richard Florida

The world is not flat; place matters.

I couldn’t agree more with the latest work by Richard Florida. This book looks at the importance of place not only in the global economy but in a person’s life. I personally had a good idea that this made a huge difference some time ago, despite living and working in a world where colleagues work for organizations for which home base is irrelevant.

On this, my 300-day DCVersary, I can confirm that my experience bears this out. Moving from one of the smaller “mega-regions” (Cascadia, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, 9 million people, $260 billion light-based regional product) to the second largest one in the world (Bos-Wash, Boston-Washington, DC, 54 million people, $2.2 trillion LRP) has undeniably made a significant difference in everything I do, even in a technology-related occupation. As Florida describes, people cluster:

(There is) the tendency of creative people to seek out and thrive in like-minded groups, and (there is the) self-perpetuating economic edge that comes from doing so.

Florida does a good job of reviewing the evidence that place matters, and the idea that its impact on personal and professional happiness has been underemphasized. He combines original research as well as data currently available to create a compelling picture of both the importance of place and the factors about it that matter. One of the interesting explorations in the book is about the personality of cities – extroverted people and agreeable people tend to be localized east of the Mississippi, where “open to experience” people tend to be localized to the coasts, with dominance in California and Bos-Wash (okay, maybe the extroversion doesn’t stretch as far east as DC, and maybe the “open to experience” doesn’t stretch as far South, but I’m pretending they do – you always see the best in something you like).

Throughout, It’s nice to imagine where you might “fit” but also how your own experience stacks up, because an important criteria of a place its aesthetic.

I have been using a curious measure for the past few years to judge aesthetic, the “touch-down” measure. It is, “In what city do you say to yourself, ‘I’m home,’ when the plane touches down on the runway.” I think you can’t fake that. Alternately, it’s the city that when the plane touches down, you say to yourself, “I can’t believe I don’t live here.”

I give strong kudos to Florida for acknowledging the role of diversity and tolerance in a place, not just for minorities, but for all people. He says:

It’s not about tolerance for tolerance’s sake. As my previous research has shown, places that are intolerant simply do not grow. And, as the Place and Happiness Survey confirms, people in intolerant places are less happy and less fulfilled than those in tolerant an open-minded ones.

This finding is similar to research that shows the same thing about organizations. As a patient said to me a very long time ago, “We don’t tolerate diversity (within the organization I work for). We LIVE diversity.” That describes a place that has a better chance of thriving, and one that most people (including me) want to be involved with.

A book by an author that writes a blog is a better read

It is worth mentioning that as I read the book, the positive impact of Florida having experience writing a blog came across, because (a) he brought his personal experiences and those of his colleagues into the story and (b) he crowd sourced several of his ideas, bringing in commentary from blog entries. This made for a much more engaging read, and I can’t help thinking that without this experience, the work might feel less connected to the experience of real people. I think this is an interesting way that blogging is changing traditional publishing because those who blog are forced to become more personal in their communication to be successful. I like it. A lot.

And the winner is…

I have experience living in three mega-regions described in the book: Bos-Wash, Nor-Cal, Cascadia and it was interesting for me to compare the decisions I’ve made with the characteristics of each. All of them offer so much. My recent experience with Bos-Wash has been, well, fantastic, both in terms of livability, ability to be extroverted, and exposure to diverse populations and cultures. Nor-Cal scores high in my book as well as it shares many of the livability and diversity attributes, as well as strong dominance in technology and innovation. Cascadia was definitely enjoyable for the time I spent there.

Who’s Your City? Feel free to post your experiences…

7 Replies to “Now Reading: Who’s Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life, by Richard Florida”

  1. Amazingly, this is my first reply to a blog: too busy in my mind to take the time until now. Three partners, three residences from which we operate our 2.0 diabetes management service, SugarStats.com (rated "Best Diabetes Management Online" 2 years running).

    Our Chief Architect prefers to live in The Netherlands: he has great opportunities to 'receive' high tech visitors who find themselves in his corridor of the world. High tech input a fantastic resource for him there. Ability to easily and quickly travel to various field-related european conferences without much effort and loss of time.

    Our President is currently based out of Silicon Valley. His days are full of meet ups, conferencing and negotiations. The two of them are constantly comparing notes on how to improve and grow the company based on their observations/experiences.

    But I get to live within 12 acres of a beautiful tropical rainforest on the Big Island of Hawaii, far, far away from high tech companies. Keeps me happy, sane, healthy and as VP of operations I am even pleasant to communicate with. My largest tradeoff is that I'm on (everyone prepare yourselves: this really IS worth it to me) Dial Up Modem.

  2. Nedrra,

    I'm honored to host your first blog comment, I hope there are more to come. I love the story, which illustrates that we do recognize differences of place and the tradeoffs and advantages of being in one place or another.

    Sugarstats.com looks interesting. I wonder if there is a bloodpressurestats.com in the works (anywhere)? It seems like a great platform for that condition, too.

    Thanks for writing,

    Ted

  3. Thanks Ted, SugarStats.com has us in hyper growth right now with v2 coming out soon. Any input from your medical hat or as a 2.0er is welcomed!

    Because of our time differences (12 hours between the three of us), at least one of us is typically accessible to our entire SugarStats team. All in all, there is a range of 18 hours difference between over 20 people and we all cooperate in making it to our meetings together. However, on occasion it can require the Chief Architect in The Netherlands joining in at either midnight or 1am for him, or 4am or 5am for me in Hawaii. Fortunately the both of us work strange hours. hmmmm, I wonder if that's a family trait: he's my son.

    And yes, I have thought about doing one for blood pressure since that is a community I've paid serious dues into: four times to the ER in the first year of hypertension diagnosis. After the first two years in the rainforest and a major change in my dietary habits (and lifestyle, of course) all those horrendous symptoms dissipated and I haven't taken a blood pressure pill –or any of the other resulting multitude of pills I had to take — in the same amount of time. I'd love to see that software happen and perhaps be a part of supporting the hypertensive community if it shows up. If there's anyone out there who seriously would like to take up that gauntlet, let me know!

  4. You might be interested in an article in this months JAMA on the "Effectiveness of Home Blood Pressure Monitoring, Web Communication, and Pharmacist Care on Hypertension Control. The three armed study compared patients who used Web services, home blood pressure (BP) monitoring, and pharmacist-assisted care to improve BP control.

    Adding Web-based pharmacist care to home BP monitoring and Web training significantly increased the percentage of patients with controlled BP (56%; 95% CI, 49%-62%) compared with usual care (36%) (P < .001) and home BP monitoring and Web training only (31% P < .001).

  5. Hi Sherry,

    I had reviewed this paper previously (see this post), but did not put the specifics in on the outcomes achieved, so thanks for doing this. This is impressive work to be sure, glad you called it out,

    Ted

Leave a Reply