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President Obama, Make Robert Redford The Secretary Of Commerce.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on February 17, 2009

The President is having a hard time finding a Secretary of Commerce and I have the perfect person for the job—Robert Redford. It’s not just that Redford has created his own startup, Sundance Film Festival, that super-charges the entire indie movie industry. Redford gets the role that creativity, art and culture play in generating economic growth. He is at the cutting edge of design thinking about how we need to transform the US into a creativity-driven growth economy.

How do I know this? When Congress cut out any funding in the Stimulus Bill for the Arts, Redford called House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and explained just how movies, museums and all that creative stuff generates jobs, wealth, taxes. Pelosi, having succombed to the prejudice that art was for the rich and flighty, agreed with Redford and switched her position.

So they added in to the Stimulus package $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts. Now this is a ridiculous sum, I know, at a time when Congress is giving hundreds of billions of dollars to the bankers who caused the current recession and tens of billions of dollars to Detroit carmakers.

Richard Florida has a great article in the current issue of The Atlantic on How The Crash Will Reshape America. Florida points to the essential role of creativity in the generation of economic growth in cities. In the case of New York City, he argues that creative talent in media, marketing, design, fashion, movies, TV, music, graphics, webwork and more will save it from the Wall Street crash. Florida, who is a Professor of Business and Creativity at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, says it may actually be a good thing for Wall Street to shrink as a percentage of the New York GDP. It could lower rents and open up more opportunities for “culture growth.” There has been lots of talk in recent years about the dominance of this banking group,, how difficult it was for new talent to come and live in New York and how boring culture and life was becoming in New York without new blood.

What will the US look like as it emerges from this current crisis? “…most of all, it will be a landscape that can accomodate and accelerate invention, innovation and creation—the activities in which the US still holds a competitive advantage.”

Robert Redford gets this. Make him Secretary of Commerce.

Reader Comments


February 17, 2009 9:54 PM

Bruce - you're joking right? Get serious - I love Robert Redford but Secretary of Commerce? Do you really think he is the best candidate? American business needs a lot of serious work and direction - not a celebrity. Denver's Mayor - who takes seriously design and innovative thinking is just one person who is much more qualified than Redford. Richard Florida would also be a better choice. You may have made one too many trips to Davos. It's effecting your judgement.

Alexandra Pluscarr

March 9, 2009 10:04 AM

Hi Bruce,

On the topic of leadership, I am endorsing a great new book- I thought you might want to check it out. The Rabbi & The CEO. Catchy title, great content.


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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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