Cultural Creatives

Toronto-based management guru Richard Florida (along with Ray, et al) has identified a Creative Class which he believes is the driving force behind most social change. In a variation on the 80-20 Rule, he argues that about 1/3 of the population drives most knowledge-based developments. He further proposes that about 1 in 3 of these creatives (roughly 10 % of any population) are the “core innovators.”

Florida has his detractors, and his theory may have its weaknesses, but one thing remains true: certain types of people are more inclined to be change agents, while others are happier living within the status-quo. Call them what you will, cultural creatives are the catalyst behind most scientific and philosophical change that has occurred throughout history.

But not all communities encourage the creative. Consider China’s Cultural Revolution. Artists, free-thinkers, dangerous academics ‘core creatives’ were sent off to labor camps where they could be ‘reprogrammed’ to think and act within the boundaries of acceptable political orthodoxy.

Religion is another example. Let’s call it the “clergy class” the roughly 1 in 100 within religious communities who act as paid professionals. The 1% clergy class effectively sets agenda and defines the boundaries of its community. I would suggest that our inherited 1% religious models routinely suppress their 10% core creatives.

My impression is that the 10%-core learns to adjust (survive?) within religious structures by not venturing too far beyond well-defined ecclesial parameters. Those who have risked beyond the boundaries frequently become casualties of the system marginalized by religious tradition. It’s also my impression that, when viewed from the pages of history, the role of religious out-grouping almost always appears somewhere on a scale between ridiculous and barbaric (think inquisitions, stake burnings, etc.).

The emergence of virtual community, the virtual ecclesia, will radically change global religion in part because creatives-of-faith now have direct access to community formation. In virtuality, the 10% creative core no longer needs permission from 1% structural gatekeepers. In virtuality, ideas live and die not by their ability to further institutional mandates, but by their inherent value to the greater community.

The old guards at religion’s gate are being rendered irrelevant. No longer must core creatives repress or dilute their unique gifts among spiritual community. And no longer can religious institution marginalize the creative. A virtual free-market of ideas assures that deep, generative change is underway. Tomorrow’s generations will usher in these changes organically, not as protest, but as an outgrowth of their virtually-connected lives and communities — a natural progression which reflects a spirituality of radical inclusion rather than religious out-grouping.


9 thoughts on “Cultural Creatives

  1. I think this applies to diversity in general – and includes cultural, racial and gender diversity in faith expressions as well. As it is, artists are considered counter cultural (which is how they are wired) which is in itself viewed negatively. It’s all a matter of conformity. the artists will always be outside the conformed norm by default – the minute they find themselves within a defined norm – it’s time to recreate. Florida’s thesis is that technology is a driving force combined with creativity and geographical hubs that incubate the two combined – are drivers of economy and culture.

  2. Has anyone done any research on what happens to these change agents once they become successful? My observation is they often become part of the status quo – e.g., the cutting edge ministry that becomes the cool cult once its gets a bit of press and it loses the ability to be an agent for change and becomes a hipper version of that which it was formed to rebel against. I struggle with this in my own reporting – how do I discern which underground groups I can highlight so that my reporting won’t have an adverse effect? I found an informal mechanism which is to run any group I want to cover by a few people I trust, a system I admit is flawed but it’s the best I found so far.

  3. Becky, I doubt we’ll be alive to see this level of change. Nor do I envision any one central “cutting edge ministry” or specific ideology or “underground group” leading any of these changes. Matured virtual community is organically driven and distributed, not centralized – fluid not static – more generative than factional – inclusive to a fault. Virtuality reflects the collective wisdom of all participants rather than the narrow interests of a few. The “change agent” is the system itself, not a small subset within the system. Perhaps hard to visualize as it’s an antithesis of today’s stage-driven models. I can only dream about this new community in generalities, but I do sense that it will revolutionize our understanding and practice.

  4. Gotcha and agreed – what I’m noticing is the trend for underground groups to often get co-opted by the “system” once their leader gets a bit of media exposure. The promise of money, fame and power for now seems to win out.

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