Prof Shaun Hendy on cities and innovation

Prof Shaun Hendy (Victoria University of Wellington and Callaghan Innovation) looks at the relationship between city size and smarts in an article for Unlimited.

An excerpt (read in full here):

Sex, (ideas) and the city

Where are you most likely to have a good idea? On the train to work in the morning, or during slide 30 of your boss’s quarterly strategy update?

Perhaps you are at your most creative while doing the ironing or cleaning out your shed.

What does the data say? It says you’re more likely to have a good idea if you live in Auckland rather than Wellington, Sydney rather than Auckland or Tokyo rather Sydney.

Physicists Geoffrey West and Luis Bettancourt have studied cities across the US and Europe and found that cities are the modern engines of creativity – and the bigger the city, the more innovative its citizens.

They have looked at the things that go into a city, from wiring to plumbing to roads, and at the things that come out, from patents and products to crime statistics.

While every city has its own mix of strengths and weaknesses, West and Bettancourt find that cities obey quite general mathematical laws that relate many of their characteristics directly to their size.

You might not be surprised to hear the pace of life in big cities is faster, but these mathematical laws tell us by just how much.

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