Creativity reification

Roger Martin and Richard Florida argue that wages in the US and Canada are higher in “clustered” industries than in “dispersed” industries and are higher in “creative” jobs rather than “routine” jobs regardless of industry.

They divide routine jobs into routine-physical, routine-service and routine-resource, leaving creative jobs otherwise unclassified. This is an interesting enough split, putting some white-collar jobs with many blue-collar jobs, and cleaving off others which I’m tempted to call turtleneck-collar jobs.

Martin’s article is an argument for higher wages overall by recognising that all workers can be creative in their work and that by encouraging greater creativity from everyone, productivity will rise.

But for me, this is the crux of the argument:

We fear that job structuring and classification becomes entirely self-sealing for many American workers. Once a job is defined as routine, it becomes routine and the individual in it doesn’t exercise judgment or decision-making. That employee then becomes by definition low-productivity and both can’t be paid much and is easier to think of as a candidate for off-shoring.

That is, it is not inherent in the job, whether it is creative or routine, but it is how the job has been classified that determines whether an employee is seen as high or low productivity. So the question should be who classifies these jobs as creative or not!


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