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The Critical Competency Needed for the Future – The Creative Edge


As a Futurist, it’s easy to get caught up in the technology trends and breakthroughs that will mark our future lives – the amazing advances in devices and concepts, from flying taxis to cryptocurrency.

But life is more than code, supercomputers, and the sciences. Healthy and advancing societies must integrate creativity into the mainstream in two fundamental areas: the creative arts and in support of the digital working world.

Keep in mind, the same technology that is automating jobs out of existence is the same technology that will be creating entirely new business and industry.

Since AI doesn’t have the ability to invent something that currently doesn’t exist, we need to focus on our uniquely human strengths, and that’s where creativity comes into play.


Creative Arts

Creative arts can define and unify a culture. Throughout history, the creative arts have brought people together both physically and emotionally. Art, and the creativity behind it, is a unifying force. That’s why oppressive regimes over the course of history often seek to destroy a community’s revered artistic objects when they try to impose their will and authority.

Creative arts can inform and inspire technology. Before most technological breakthroughs occur, there’s usually a necessary phase of imagination and artistic creativity. For example, I have to think that today’s engineers who are deeply immersed in flying car technology were inspired earlier in their lives by artistic renderings of these vehicles.

And on an even more pragmatic front, the creative arts contribute to the economy. The “cultural and creative industries” (CCI) portion of the world economy is poised to rebound after being decimated by pandemic-induced closures. That’s a good thing for a lot of reasons, including economic. The CCI sector is responsible for nearly 30 million jobs worldwide and it’s the most important employer for young people between the ages of 15 and 29 compared to any other sector.


Creativity in the Larger Work Environment

Not all of us are artists, but outside of the CCI, there will also be a need for creativity and a creative mindset in most industries and business sectors.

Our focus on technology and our dependence on it may be making our workforce and many jobs less creative. Fortunately, employers seem to be trying to resist this trend, often defining relatively straightforward jobs as “creative.” They understand that employees, probably for reasons of job security and self-esteem, don’t want to invest their time and effort in jobs in which it seems they can easily be replaced by technology.

Additionally, employers value the differentiating edge that human creative skills can contribute to design, service levels, and branding, even in the process of conducting digital tasks and the production of basic products.

As the former Chairman of Sony pointed out recently, “We assume that all products of our competitors have basically the same technology, price, performance, and features. Design is the only thing that differentiates one product from another …” Creativity.


The Future is Bright for Creative Skills

With that in mind, how will the definition and nature of creativity evolve as we move into the future? How will it be different even 5-10 years from now than it is today?

As noted above, employers will continue to emphasize the creative aspects of the digital-empowered jobs they post. They will encourage employees to bring creative new approaches to their jobs in order to maintain an engaged workforce and in the hopes of delivering differentiation to their competitive products and services.

Additionally, the more digitized the working environment becomes, the more important it will be to combine – some would say temper – objective calculation and machine-informed projections with human intuition and insight. Computers aren’t visionaries. They lack imagination and emotion.

As long as we have problems, we will always have jobs! And there is no shortage of problems! And as long as work teams and our world itself are made up of human beings, this type of managing, planning, and problem-solving will require the creative human touch.


Implications for our Educational System

In many ways, technology has made us less dependent on gaining knowledge. For example, we don’t need to learn geography, rules of grammar, or math skills, thanks to apps and features in apps. These advances have been a source of equalization among mankind – a very positive trend.

Since to a large extent, knowledge is no longer just for the privileged but for everyone, and can be stored in devices and not our brains, our education system will need to shift from knowledge-based training (how to do something), to the more creative side of work (when to do it or not, why to do it, and ways to do it even better).

Unfortunately, that necessity is at odds with our current education system. In fact, some experts claim the education system is actually “killing creativity” … at a time we need it the most.

Knowledge is merely the starting point of creativity; but unfortunately, it seems to be the endpoint of our education system. Instead, the future of education instruction should encompass creative explorations of “How can we apply this knowledge?” and “What areas of technology can we apply in order to create solutions to this challenge?”


The Need to Teach Creativity

From the earliest grades through graduate school, creativity should not simply be tolerated or encouraged, it should be taught along with related key skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration.

Creativity doesn’t always come naturally. Some students inherently have more of a knack for it than others, just as some students are math whizzes beginning in first grade.

There’s no arguing that technology like AI, robotics, drones, and ever-faster computers will continue to displace tasks, lessen the workload, and force businesses to rework virtually every conceivable job. But rather than merely responding piece-meal with specialized training programs when this happens, it’s time to go back to the fundamentals and add a fourth “R” to our basic education curriculum. In addition to “readin’, writin’, and rithmetic,” we’ll need to teach and promote “resourcefulness.”


By Futurist Thomas Frey

Author of “Epiphany Z – 8 Radical Visions for Transforming Your Future


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