A recent story in the Wall Street Journal has a nifty map which demonstrates that people with different—presumably inherent—character traits cluster in different states. Neurotic? Definitely hang out in the Northeast or the Mississippi Delta. Openness, as defined in the study in Perspectives on Psychological Science, is the trait most linked to new ideas, and indeed those states where open people flock have higher per-capita patent production.
This map is very similar to those in Richard Florida’s latest, Who’s Your City? As he says, “Innovation, economic growth and prosperity continue to occur in places that attract a critical mass of top creative talent.”
So what makes a place attractive to innovators? It seems that you need critical masses of intellectual capital (no surprise that many of the most innovative hot spots are around universities), financial resources (New York & the Bay Area are perfect examples), and an open cultural climate that encourages diversity.
It’s a classic chicken-and-egg conundrum: Do creative people flock to creative places to gather with their peers? Or is it something about creative places (is it in the water?) that makes people more creative? Either way, if you want to increase your potential for innovation, you might want to check into the places where it’s already thriving.
Sources: The United States of Mind: Researchers Identify Regional Personality Traits Across America, Wall Street Journal, September 23, 2008, Pg A26.
Interactive map at WSJ Online.
Florida, Richard. (2008). Who’s Your City? How the Creative Economy is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision in Your Life. Basic Books, New York, NY.