From the Machine Shop to the Hair Salon: Work and the Creative Class

It’s safe to say that creativity is changing how we view, live and work in the world. As Richard Florida explains in his book The Rise of the Creative Class, ‘every human is creative’ (Florida, 7). Coming into college, I told my parents that I wanted to major in something creative. Not thinking of science as necessarily creative at the time, I chose to take up film and art because I wanted to be able to express myself. It’s this type of creative freedom that Florida explores when stating that ‘creativity cannot be bought and sold, or turned off and on at will’ (Florida, 7). Essentially, creativity it is a part of every living individual. It’s how this shift in creative freedom transforms the workplace that’s interesting.

In Florida’s chapter on work, he brings up two interesting concepts: ‘the Machine Shop’ (Florida, 66) and ‘the Hair Salon’ creative-mind(Florida, 66). Even before reading into these two terms, I could detect a difference in the type of work: the machine shop would allow more money and job stability, while the hair salon would allow for a more free environment in terms of overall creativity, but less economic success. When Florida asked a group of students which type of industry they would rather work in, the majority of the students said they would rather work in a ‘hair salon’. Although money is not only important, but necessary for survival, creativity is being recognized as an important element in the workplace because ‘the more engaged employees are in their work, the more satisfied they are’ (Florida, 79). As we transform toward a more creative work experience, our interest lies less in definition and structure, and more in flexibility.  Florida explains that ‘schedules, rules and dress codes have become more flexible to cater to how the creative process works’ (Florida, 7).

When I worked at a production company in Los Angeles this past summer, I came in the first day and was shocked by the causal work environment. I had my hair straightened, was wearing a nice dress, a lot of makeup, (three things that I never do), and was worried that I wouldn’t fit in. I didn’t…because I was overdressed! The environment of the company allowed for a more relaxed, pressure-free work space to help develop the films that the company produced. As Florida explains, the creativity that we have ‘must be motivated and nurtured in a multitude of ways, by employers, by creative people themselves, and by the places we live’ (Florida, 7). Personally, I felt more comfortable in that kind of environment, and it impacted my ability and quality of work tremendously. Some may see this creative change in the work place as ‘unprofessional’. However, if the work place norm begins to transform, then wouldn’t the definition of professionalism have to shift as well?

As our creativity begins to evolve, it’s interesting to reflect back on the concepts of good and bad work as explored by Rosamund Davis. As his article Introducing the Creative Industries: From Theory to Practice explains, ‘interest, involvement, sociality and work-life balance’ (Davies, 95) are what create the good work environment. These characteristics, similar to the qualities of a hair salon, are what draw people to jobs that are engaging and satisfying.

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