Who’s Your City? (Toronto!) Who’s your Company?

Peter JonesTransformation Design

Richard Florida’s latest dive off the springboard of the Creative Class shows up in geography – where you choose to live determines your destiny. In the Globe and Mail, Florida himself reviews the premises and thesis of the book Who’s your City?

Where we choose to live, argues the director of the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute , is crucial not only to how we live and who we share our lives with, but also to what kind of career we end up having.

In this passage, he describes how this “geographic clustering” is dictated by five basic personality traits: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

The choice to live in a certain city – essentially a situated culture with its unique set of circumstances – generates an enormous new set of options for the individual. It has taken us three years of continual learning and exploration to become Torontonians-in-training. However, even on the very part-time basis of one week a month, we have created a huge network of new friends by choice (all of them brilliant, smarter than us, well-informed politically, constantly culturally creating, attractive, socially engaged, etc.). We have recreated Toronto in our own idealized image of the place, and that has led to some extraordinary connections that could never have occurred in the US. These relationships have led to extraordinary opportunities as well – in business, research, and intellectual communities, as well as artistic, creative, and self-exploration opportunities.


Now, shift the unit of analysis of cultural ecology of the city to the cultural ecology of your career or business. I own and manage a small design research firm, Redesign Research, and we thrive on designing new information services, researching the ecologies of use for product innovations, and advising organizations on configuring their strategies and operations to best pursue innovation. I live in two cities now – hometown Dayton and newtown Toronto. Which one will better suit this business model in the future?

Focus the lens a notch deeper – where do you choose to work? Given the geographic traits of Florida’s thesis – openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism – which of these do you experience in your workplace? Which do you want more of, less of? To what extent does geography map these traits to the firm? So what organizations – and what cities – what nations – seem to hold these traits?

If you haven’t figured it out yet, Richard Florida left the US (Virginia) for Toronto, where he is Academic Director of University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute which takes an integrative approach to the study and creation of jurisdictional advantage. (I am at U of T as a visiting scientist myself). When I meet Richard, I’d like ask him how and why he chose Toronto. Given his distinction as an American that explored and wrote about the evolution of North American cities, he’s quickly becoming a new century’s Jane Jacobs. Jane’s vision of a city of neighborhoods seems well loved (if institutional), in Toronto; now Richard is finding who lives in those neighborhoods (and why) makes all the difference.