The Future of Work is Grounded in the Technology Kids Love Today

by Mark Garrett

posted on 11-16-2016

This is one article in a series on addressing the need employers have for real-world ready workers. Our CFO Mark Garrett shares how we can arm our kids to be real world ready – allowing them to explore their creativity through using technology they already know and love.

Albert Einstein once famously said, “creativity is contagious, pass it on.” It’s a powerful message: one creative idea can spark a million. So how can we all pass it on?

I believe digital engagement at a young age can offer broader benefits. Let’s look at Pokémon Go as an example. Pokémon Go, the app that became a global phenomenon overnight, sparked interest in technology by bringing kids’ most beloved Pokémon characters to life.

At a basic level, Pokémon Go helped kids become more tech literate by providing a platform for digital engagement. At a broader level, it spurred creative problem-solving skills to tackle challenges that surfaced as the game became popular. For example, when safety concerns became an issue, a 7-year-old Pokémon Go player invented a glowing wristband to keep his fellow hunters safe at night. It’s a simple idea, yet demonstrates the powerful implications of how digital engagement at a basic level can encourage broader creative thinking.

You may ask, why a CFO is talking about kids and tech? It’s because kids like that 7-year-old inventor will make up tomorrow’s workforce. I believe that today’s growth-oriented CFOs need to keep an eye to the future — how are we going to deliver growth in the long-term and who’s going to get us there? The answer is always our biggest asset — our employees.

Investments in teaching technology and creativity to kids today can yield big dividends in helping them solve real-world business problems tomorrow. Adobe’s recent 2016 State of Create study of more than 5,000 adults globally underscores the importance of fostering creativity in schools. About seven in ten respondents feel that being creative makes people better workers, leaders, parents, and students. Eighty-four percent globally believe that schools should prioritize learning by “doing,” and 75 percent favor creativity over memorization in schools.

Everyone is born with tremendous creative potential. Yet, today’s children can outgrow their natural creativity more quickly than yesterday’s. According to British educator and expert Sir Ken Robinson, rigorous curricula that dampen freedom to experiment, coupled with weak tech instruction, can deter creativity and risk-taking among school-aged kids.

We can all play a part to boost creativity. A few teachers are exploring the “gamification” of education — getting kids excited about school using tools that they are familiar with, like video games. When one California teacher instituted a gaming model based on World of Warcraft quests in his visual arts classroom, he found a significant boost in student engagement and enthusiasm.

Other teachers have implemented a classroom “Genius Hour” — a time when kids put down their textbooks and explore a creative passion. “Genius Hour” creations have ranged from a sketchbook on wolves to a website on the dangers of smoking.

These creative courses are significant in providing kids with the tools to dive into their imaginations. Employers too have a stake in tomorrow’s workforce, and it is just as critical that they nurture young creativity and create opportunities for new ideas to grow to fruition. Here are a few companies who are doing this.

Target let 8-17 year olds manage its back-to-school campaign this year. The company tasked all of the major elements of the campaign — broadcast TV, digital video, radio, social, and in-store marketing — to creative kids.=

LEGO hosts an online community called LEGO Ideas where young creative kids can upload ideas for new LEGO sets. LEGO chooses the best sets, creates them, and actually sells them worldwide.

At Adobe, we’ve joined dozens of other companies to help fund the White House’s ConnectED initiative. As part of this $2 billion private sector effort, we’re helping kids build skills for future success by filling classrooms with creative tools and teaching educators. In a separate effort at the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, we’re teaching kids how to produce films and digitally edit photos.

Together, we can all pass creativity on. Kids are born creative, and the tech tools that they use and love today were made to facilitate creative disruption. Blending modern tech tools with education is a powerful way to inspire the next generation of innovators and disruptors. It is the road to future growth and competitiveness.

What do real-world skills look like? How can science and math combine with creativity in the classroom? Want more ideas from leaders in K-12 education? Hear what they are doing and learn their top tips in “Addressing Creative and Digital Literacy in K-12.”

Topics: Leadership