San Diego Business Journal

If America does capture the high ground in this latest effort to lead the world economy ... it will do so because the hearse is now at the back door of our current economic situation.

Most economists now seem to agree that the emerging so-called creative and innovative economy represents America's salvation.

Apple Computer's iPod is often cited as an example of the kind of innovation most people are talking about.

Providing easy, legal access to lots of music (iTunes) was something no one had yet managed.

It was not simply making a slick piece of hardware; it was the design of a whole system that made Apple the leader in the innovation economy.
As we discuss the foreshadowing of a whole economy based upon creativity and innovation , the dawn of the Creative Age as the Nomura Research Institute put it , we are more acutely aware of the importance of reinventing our business strategies, our corporations, our communities, our schools, our housing and land-use policies and more. Nothing can remain the same if we are to survive, let alone succeed, in this new global economy.
For example, Michael Porter in his book "The Competitive Advantage of Nations," pointed out the importance of "economic clusters" , "Geographic concentrations of interconnected companies, specialized suppliers, service providers and associated institutions in a particular field that are present in a nation or region."

Such clusters, he said, are central to survival in the wake of an uncertain global economy. Today, corporations and the communities they serve must put themselves at the forefront of this sweeping change in the structure of the world in which we live and work.

It is imperative that we begin in earnest to attract, retain and nurture the creative and innovative work force we know we need; and in the process, create a new overlay of our land-use planning as well.

Cities across the United States have to change the lenses in their cameras and their parochial thinking about land use, the transformative value of technology and the urgent need to reinvent our schools.

We need to redesign our high school and college curricula in particular, to focus on preparing students for this new competition. While creative industries, according to Americans for the Arts, are defined as arts-related, creativity and innovation are vital to the success of all businesses.

Sadly, if America does capture the high ground in this latest effort to lead the world economy by being first in the demand for creativity and innovation, it will do so because the hearse is now at the back door of our current economic situation.

Unless we awaken to the realities, our graduates will not find the work they want and need, the purchasing power of the average family will continue its downward spiral and the state of America's prowess in both the economic and political arena will be lost.

John M. Eger is the Van Deerlin chairman in communications and public policy at San Diego State University and president of the World Foundation for Smart Communities.