15th May 2018 0 Comments Human Insight

Creativity and the fourth revolution

Photo of woman sitting at desk with her back to camera - vases and flowers seen in image

The global economy is transforming through machine learning and digitisation. Economies big and small are evolving because of Big Data, the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence. This heady mix is maturing and it profoundly influences the way business, government and civic society perform. In this brave new world, the need for creativity has never been more pronounced.

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”.

Creativity owns the future

In 2015, creativity was at the bottom of the list for top ten future job skills. WEF predict that it will be number three by 2020, preceded by 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. The premise here is as smart machines take over rote manufacturing and services jobs, there will be an increasing demand for the kinds of skills machines cannot do. These are higher level thinking skills that cannot be codified. We call these sense-making skills that help us create unique insights critical to decision making.

Most machine code uses binary logic and until the day it becomes our lingua franca, there will always be a “grey area” between black and white that provides great fecundity. This “grey area” is where the imagination takes flight. This non-binary space inspires innovation and it’s where the best stories come to life.

five people waiting for creativity to spark an idea

Connecting the dots

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 the scene of Zuckerberg’s defence against intellectual 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”. The meaning is broad, but for starters it assumes the capability for lateral thinking. This means, essentially, the ability to ‘connect the dots’ with ease. The quote from the film showed something about Zuckerberg that separated him from other computer science students. He was able to use computer programming to address a basic human desire. As social animals, most of us have a need for acceptance and shared experience. This, it seems to me, is the premise of social networking.

Chaos and collaboration

Creative thinking means being able to articulate and embody something that doesn’t already exist. It takes a lot of right brain activity to create a new reality. Identifying that “grey area” and then to make sense of it means creating order in perceived chaos. The same kind of thinking means someone can look at a paradox and find meaning within it. “Out of the box” thinking means the ability to work collaboratively and across disciplines.

With 2020 around the corner, it’s obvious that creativity is a key skill for the future of work. But it also the key skill for right now. If we believe the Fourth Revolution is already 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. However, those with right brain skills and creative capabilities will employ their thinking to discover their vocation.


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