Michelle Bauer is determined to get local businesses to think outside of the box. Inspired by "creative economy" guru Richard Florida, Bauer co-founded a group called Creative Tampa Bay in 2003 to attract more creative workers to the area and help companies gain a competitive edge through "design thinking."
The movement -- which emphasizes using design to drive business -- has been generating buzz in major business centers like New York, Boston and Chicago. Stanford University has even invested $35 million in a new "d.school" that promises "radical collaboration" between students and faculty in disciplines such as engineering, business, medicine and the humanities. Business Week predicts such programs could someday supplant traditional business schools.
Locally, Creative Tampa Bay is holding a series of public forums to get feedback about what makes the region "unique" and "authentic." Bauer's group also helped organize the Sarasota International Design Summit (sarasotadesignsummit. com) to be held this month at the Ringling School of Art and Design. Speakers will include Target Vice President John Remington, Procter & Gamble design director Helen Stringer and Arthur Aw, developer of Biopolis, a biomedical research complex in Singapore. Their message, says Ringling spokeswoman Mary Craig, is that organizations can no longer rely on traditional strategies like cost control to be successful. "They have to design their way out of it," she says.
Meanwhile, Bauer points to developers of communities like Lakewood Ranch who have shown an understanding of creative design by applying a "green" building approach to planning, building and marketing -- a move that appeals to a growing base of eco-aware consumers.