15th May 2018 0 Comments Human Insight

Creativity and the fourth revolution

As we move into a global economy that is transforming through machine learning and digitisation, the need for creativity has never been more pronounced. Economies big and small are evolving because Big Data, the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence are maturing and influencing the way business, government and civic society perform. According to The World Economic Forum (WEF), creativity is one of the top three skills needed for the working world today in preparation for “The Fourth Revolution”.

Creative skills own the future

In 2015, creativity was at the bottom of the list for top ten future job skills. WEF are predicting it will be number three by 2020, preceded by other right brain activities of complex problem-solving and critical thinking. WEF aren’t the only ones to draw attention to this. As early as 2011, The Institute for the Future (IFTF), published a report called Future Work Skills 2020, identifying the need for right brain thinking: as smart machines take over rote, routine manufacturing and services jobs, there will be an increasing demand for the kinds of skills machines are not good at. These are higherlevel [sic] thinking skills that cannot be codified. We call these sense-making skills, skills that help us create unique insights critical to decision making.

Most machine code uses binary logic and until the day our lingua franca becomes machine code, there will always be that “grey area” outside of the black and white, which provides great fecundity. This “grey area” isn’t to be feared, it is to be embraced because this is where the imagination takes flight, where ideas inspire innovation and where the best stories are told.

Browsing Netflix (a broadcast media disruptor), I came across the film “The Social Network”, which if you haven’t already seen it, charts the rise of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook (the media disruptor). We ordered in some pizza through Ubereats (another disruptor) and sat down to watch it.

Let’s take this idea of being “creatively capable” and understand that creativity is, at its core the ability to ‘connect the dots’.

There was a line that stood out for me during Zuckerberg’s defence against a couple of fellow Harvard students trying to sue him for Intellectual Property theft. The plaintiff’s counsel asks if Zuckerberg is giving his full attention to the proceedings because he looks bored. He retorts, “…my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing…”

Let’s take this idea of being “creatively capable” and understand that creativity is, at its core the ability to ‘connect the dots’. In the film example above, the narrative was that Zuckerberg was able to see gap in the market and use computer programming to alleviate a social need for sharing and acceptance.

Crossing all the lines

Creative thinking means being able to articulate something that wasn’t there before and to make it a reality; it takes a lot of right brain activity to do this. It takes someone who can identify that “grey area” and to make sense of it, someone who can look at a paradox and find meaning within it, someone who breaks down the barriers and as a rule rather than the exception. Someone who is capable of working collaboratively and across disciplines, and willing to make mistakes because they have the humility learn from them.

With 2020 eighteen months away, it’s plain to see (yes, pun intended) that creativity is a key skill for the future of work, but it also the key skill for right now. None of us know for sure what jobs will be around in 2020, but if we believe the Fourth Revolution is underway, then any occupation that can be digitised is at risk. The opportunity then, is to do the things that the robots, by virtue of their binary processes, can’t do. That “grey space” I mentioned earlier is frustratingly nebulous, and it is the creative thinkers with their right brain skills and capabilities who will make sense of it for themselves and in doing so, discover their vocation.