NEW YORK — It was at a meeting in New Zealand with Peter Jackson, director of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and the upcoming remake of “King Kong,” that sparked best-selling author and economist Richard Florida’s idea of creative talent in the global sense and led him to analyze countries by their creative value.

Whether creativity can have an impact on a country’s economic outlook is becoming a matter of fast debate. Florida, author of “The Flight of the Creative Class” and his organization, the Richard Florida Creativity Group, have devised the Global Creativity Index, which ranks countries’ creativity levels by three specific measures. They are: talent (percent of the workforce employed in the creative sectors and percent of citizens with bachelor’s degrees), technology (innovation — patents per capita and percent of national GDP spent on research and development) and tolerance (openness to self-expression, alternative lifestyles and social diversity).

The index, presented on a scale of 1 to 100 (100 being the most creative), doesn’t just look at raw productivity data to decipher a country’s economic state. It also assesses the motivators and people behind companies and ideas, arguing that economic value comes directly from those motivators.

But Frank Lichtenberg, professor of finance and economics at Columbia University, would rather see the study combined with hard labor statistics. “This index is really capturing something,” agreed Lichtenberg. “But in order to be most effective and persuasive, why not correlate it with rates of economic growth, or other measurable variables that will support these countries’ rankings?”

Florida acknowledged his creativity group has been talking with international governments as well as other types of organizations to correlate the index with larger economic analyses. But, he stressed: “Our third measure is the factor that other indices don’t have at this time. Countries need to measure tolerance — openness toward alternative lifestyles and minorities — this will ultimately draw more foreign talent.”

This story first appeared in the May 5, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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