Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Creative Cities Speech in McPherson Kansas

Peter Kageyama spoke in McPherson, Kansas, about Creative Cities this morning. He has been there consulting and they had a meeting this morning and invited anyone to come, which I really appreciated.

In a nutshell, as he put it, "Creativity and Innovation are the natural resources of the 21st century." At other times it has been arable land, navigable waterways and oil but now it's creativity and innovation.

He encouraged people to, "think about where economies are being created," and that creativity is not a natural resource you have by luck or geography. He said the individual, the human capital, is an even stronger resource. "Your most important resource walks out the door every day and you hope they come back," he said.

Creativity and innovation are two words we hear a lot and often thing of them as the same thing, but they're different. Kageyama says he defines them as creativity being a divergent process, a shot gun approach, the brainstorming. Innovation, on the other hand, is a convergent process where you strip away ideas and focus with a laser-like intensity.

One of the great challenges is that he says, "People think of creativity and innovation as someone else's job." Everyone agrees they're important but no one feels a responsiblity to them. He said, "let us be the geniuses in our own communities" and that "someone should be leading the charge on this because talent is too important to leave to happenstance."

He said, "Talent is not just young people. Talent exists in every age group." He cited some research that young professionals wanted affordable housing, transportation options other than cars, interesting places to live and a sense of community. Other research indicates empty nesters and retirees want the same things.

He addressed the issue of brain drain, which is of great concern to cities - young people moving away. Richard Florida pointed out, "Brains don't drain, they circulate," meaning people often move "back home."

Kageyama talked about how the tools we use to attract people are outdated. Traditionally, companies would be courted. But what you really need now is to target the influencers within a company and the rest will follow.

He talked about young people and notes three things about them:
1. They're tribal
2. They don't believe advertising, although it does build awareness
3. They do believe each other and that's why social media is so important

Later someone asked him how to reach people who don't believe in advertising. Kageyama suggested using radio to build awareness and understanding that people will then go to google and figure it out on their own. So, put money toward awareness and what supports that when you catch their attention.

He said he thinks social media may be even more important than a traditional webpage. Although, of course, you must have a webpage. He referred to twitter as an "evolving artform" and told people they at least need to be playing with it. He said, "you've got to be part of the conversation."

Kageyama said, "Green is the new black," and that while it "used to be nice to have, it's now a must have."

He said cities should make their values "visible and persistent." He used Chicago's motto to be the greenest city in the US as an example and said when they planted a half million trees downtown alone, as well as flowers, they were making that idea very visible.

One of the comments I highlighted in my notes was when he quoted Pier Giorgio Dicicco who is the Poet Laureate for the city of Toronto and said, "Arts and culture are what make a city fall in love with itself." Kageyama talked about having a mix of arts opportunities, not just the traditional SOB - symphony, orchestra and ballet.

Another of my favorite parts was when he discussed a pyramid about building a creative city. It was similar to Maslow's hierarchy. If you've read here for any amount of time, you know I think Maslow had us all figured out in the 50s with his hiearchy of needs. At the bottom of this pyramid for cities is "functional," and above that "safe." Kageyama said many leaders think that's enough. But he said we need to demand more. Above "safe" is "comfortable." Above that "convivial," and at the top, "interesting."

The Mayor of McPherson has agreed to start tweeting by July. He said, "We need to refresh our vision." I was impressed with his willingness to jump in.