Is creativity the key to economic success in a connected society?

With the economy sputtering and job losses mounting, there is a lot of discussion right now about what kinds of jobs, and more importantly skills, are needed to get things back on track.  This discussion is all the more complicated because of the massive changes our society is currently undergoing, as we become more diverse and connected.  In short, we have an immediate crisis that needs to be addressed and a need to lay the foundation for long-term economic security and prosperity at the same time.

Everyone is buzzing about a plan to stimulate the economy in the short-term by putting people to work improving infrastructure across the nation (rebuilding roads and schools top the list of priorities in President-Elect Obama’s massive public works proposal, unveiled in part this past weekend).  Those investments will put people back to work now, and will have long term benefits for all Americans for sure.  Still, they seem to be looking backwards rather than forwards.  Meanwhile, there is lots of talk about investing in bio-tech, or transforming our energy usage and creating a whole industry around green jobs.  Those investments will almost certainly pay off as well, and our society will be the better for it, but they will take years, if not decades, before they are proven.

Which makes me wonder — are we are overlooking something more obvious, and potentially more readily available?

In Massachusetts, where I live, Governor Deval Patrick recently signed into law a bill to creates the first statewide Creative Economy Council.  The creative economy is a $2 billion industry here in Massachusetts (here is a story from WBUR on the subject).  The Council’s job is to “develop a statewide strategy for the enhancement, encouragement, and growth of the creative economy in the commonwealth, and to promote through public and private means responsive public policies and innovative private sector practices.”  Translated, that means they’ll be looking for ways to support and grow the contribution arts and tourism makes, and create a favorable environment for industries like movie, television and video game production to flourish here.  Not to be overlooked is the role that education plays in Massachusetts (the state is home to more than 250 colleges and universities) from an economic and cultural standpoint.

Massachusetts recognizes that creative enterprises and individuals contribute significantly to the local economy, and fuel other sectors in unique and measurable ways also.  And in a connected society, that is likely to be even more true.

Infrastructure improvements, green jobs, and all the other ideas for both stimulating the economy in the short-term and re-shaping it for the future, should all be considered, and pursed.  There isn’t one solution to the challenges we are facing.  But don’t overlook the creative economy and the role that media and technology play in a connected society.  They deliver both social and economic value and if supported, can/will for generations to come.

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