Richard Florida – World Mega-Regions and The Creative Economy – an UP Experience Post

richard_floridaCreativity binds us all.

I heard Richard Florida speak at the Houston Unique Perspectives Conference 2010 (The UP Experience). Florida, who most recently taught at Carnegie Mellon University, Heinz College in Pittsburgh, is now at University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management in Toronto. He also heads the private consulting firm Creative Class Group.

Florida stated that we’ve just passed a key milestone: 51% of the world’s population now live urban. He added, that 20% of the population are to be found in 40 “Mega-Regions” (visible from space as light concentrations consisting of, for example, Char-lanta in the US, Am-Brus-Twerp in Europe, and Hong-Zhen in Asia (see Mega-Regions links below).

Furthermore, the 20% of the world’s population living in the 40 Mega-Regions produce 2/3rd’s of the world’s output. And what’s driving this trend is the economic advantage of being in a cluster combined with the increased opportunities for individual creativity to flourish.

Florida reviewed earlier transitions in society from the Agricultural Economy (where the bulk of the world’s population produced food) to the Manufacturing Economy (where the bulk produced products). And the debate on what to call this new, third phase we’re in – “Knowledge,” “Information,” etc. Florida calls it simply, “the Creative Economy.”

“Creativity binds us all,” Florida states. We now flourish most in open-minded communities that allow entrepreneurs, or as he characterizes it, “The Three T’s: Technology, Talent, and Tolerance.” We are no longer driven/constrained/trapped to geographical regions with natural assets such as minerals and rivers, but may expand/cluster wherever there is green space and there are parks. Indeed, we will be attracted most to those areas.


I am intrigued by Florida’s thesis. It ties in, in many ways, with my interests and experience (my graduate thesis was in World Modeling).

But wait, I think, what about the Internet and how we are all connected without having to live near each other. Is there a conflict in the data here?

While I live in the so-called Hou-Orleans Mega-Region, I work primarily with people who live elsewhere, albeit in their own Mega-Regions. What connects us are common enterprise interests, and we live and communicate in what might be called a Cyber Mega-Region. In fact, there are probably major identifiable Cyber Mega-Regions, although I don’t know if anyone is working on this yet.

To be fair, I’ve started to branch out in my area and physically meet with folks who live where I do. The UP Experience is, after all, a Hou-Orleans Mega-Region based phenomenon. But other conferences I attended this year were in Bos-Wash and Ireland, which does *not* have a Mega-Region (the closest is Lon-Leed-Chester).

Nevertheless, I think Professor Florida is on to something here. It’s a new way to look at the confusing world we live in, in terms we can grasp. I am also attracted to his emphasis on open-mindedness and tolerance as prerequisites for economic and every other kind of success in communities. And I don’t just mean religion or gender. Digital virtual environments, for example, remain ignored or looked at askance by the bulk of the world’s population. And digital virtual environments are my business.


Mega-Regions of Europe


 Economic Activity in a Spiky World


5 Responses to “Richard Florida – World Mega-Regions and The Creative Economy – an UP Experience Post”

  1. Mary Ellen Gordon Says:

    I love the idea of the Cyber Mega-Region.

    As someone who has moved from the physical Mega-Regions to a place that’s not in or even near any of them, I can attest that there are definitely quality of life benefits — especially since it is now so easy to still remain connected to others through the Cyber Mega-Region.

    With society being much more transient than it once was, the Cyber Mega-Region also allows people to stay connected with people and places from their past (or future).

    • sitearm Says:


      I’ve been debating in my mind whether I think Facebook is a Cyber Mega-Region. FOR says, it’s a shared space with a governance structure, within which millions of people interact daily. AGAINST says, those millions could care less about each other, and interact only with their much smaller group of friends and colleagues.

      Beyond that, this is another one of those pesky new ideas that pops up for us to think about. One additional reason Florida’s thesis caught my attention is that I am reading, in a separate project, The Power Of Pull, by John Hagel et all. Their main thesis includes a subelement of people of like interests tending to cluster together geographically over time… but I’m still reading it.

  2. Mary Ellen Gordon Says:

    I don’t think Cyber Mega-Regions would correspond to single tools or platforms like Facebook. That’s partly for the reason you’ve described about some of the connections being fairly weak, but also because many of the real connections would cross an ever changing array of tools and technologies.

    To really identify the Cyber Mega Regions, it seems to me the way to go would be to do network analysis across a range of platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, IMs, Skype…) and see who is connected to whom and around what shared interests. I suspect what you would find is Cyber Mega Regions organized by interests rather than geography (the sports region, the politics region, the technology region, etc.) obviously with some boundary spanners participating in more than one.

    It would be challenging analysis to do, but really fun and interesting!

    • sitearm Says:

      @Mary; “It would be challenging analysis to do, but really fun and interesting!”

      Sounds to me like a mission for some really top-notch “coff” research enterprise that knows a lot *coff* about online networks and connections. ;)

  3. Mary Ellen Gordon Says:

    Hmm… definitely food for thought. In the meantime, I’ve ordered a couple of his books from the library :)

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