When teaching at UCLA in the 1980s, I asked my class what they wanted to do when they graduated. "I want to be an entertainment lawyer." "I want to be a set designer." "I want to be a producer." These weren't the kind of answers one would typically expect to hear from 18-year-olds, but these were Los Angeles kids. They had a sense of who succeeded in local industry, and they knew people (sometimes their fathers) in those jobs.
What this told me was that new ideas and creativity aren't just the property of individual entrepreneurs. The creative industries that constantly produce new ideas depend on knowledge that develops in particular places and that may be handed down from one generation to another. It also shows me that innovation and place are connected. The people who live in some cities develop a particular genius for making things and for continuous innovation that we need to celebrate and foster.
Strangely, we seem to have lost this understanding about cities and creativity. We live in an era when innovation doesn't mean making things or making things better. It is about making deals—finance first, invention second. So the new geography of innovation is centered on places prominent during the financial bubble: San Francisco, Boston, New York. In these cities, dealmakers connect with the venture capital that allows them to demonstrate proof of concept and with the financiers who can find buyers for their "app" or bioscience intellectual property in global markets.