Why Creativity is the Superpower for Tomorrow’s Workforce

There is much talk today of the “future of work.” The reality is**—thanks to the exponential pace of technology further accelerated by machine learning and artificial intelligence—**none of us quite knows what the job landscape will look like 10 years from now. Individual jobs and entire career fields that have not yet been conceived will come on the scene and likely reshape the workforce as we know it.

What we do know, however, is that creative skills **will be key to the success of students and job seekers—their superpower, if you will—**whatever the future of work may bring (…which is actually already starting today…but more on that below…).

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with M. Night Shyamalan, acclaimed filmmaker and author of “I Got Schooled: The Unlikely Story of How a Moonlighting Movie Maker Learned the Five Keys to Closing America’s Education Gap,” who echoed this sentiment during our session at Adobe MAX in Los Angeles.

Description: Filmmaker, M. Night Shyamalan, talks about his career journey at Adobe MAX on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019 in Los Angeles, Calif.

Shyamalan shared that the key to bridging the common achievement gap and ensuring the future success of students in underserved schools begins with giving them a voice: “We can all do this – finding our own voices and igniting creativity.”

The findings of our latest study, which we unveiled during this session at MAX yesterday, underscore the importance of closing the achievement gap and quantify the value of nourishing creative skills in today’s students. Through “GET HIRED: The Importance of Creative and Soft Skills,” we sought to learn more about five key creative skills—communication; creativity; collaboration; creative problem solving; and critical thinking—how in-demand they are in the workforce today, and how well-supplied the job applicant pool is with them.

After examining two million resumes and two million job postings across 18 diverse career fields, and conducting interviews with hiring managers, the data revealed a stark truth: despite the high demand and critical need for these skills in today’s workforce—and the importance of these skills for a successful career in the future—today’s resumes are sorely lacking in these skills. Notably, in a market where 71 percent of job postings list communication as a necessary skill and 50 percent list creativity as a necessary skill, a whopping three in four resumes do not list either.

Credit: Adobe.

This finding begs a few important questions around whether these skills are being emphasized enough in schools so that grads can be set up for success in the job market, and how today’s jobs seekers can better showcase these skills during their job seeking or career building process.

First, are today’s digital-native students getting enough of these skills in school to be set-up for success in today’s job market, not to mention the future workforce?

To be frank, the consensus is no.

A study we conducted last year on the importance and prevalence of creative skills being taught in schools found that 69 percent of educators worldwide agree there is not enough emphasis on these skills in today’s curricula, and that these skills must be nurtured in our schools to ensure student success once they graduate.

And this finding is further emphasized through the insights provided by the hiring managers we talked with: “A lot of students that are coming out of college and from universities—this is my opinion—are lacking in these creative and soft skills areas,” Dr. Donis Toler, executive director of human resources at Princeton City School District, said. “I truly believe that we are not doing a good enough job of preparing students for success, no matter if it’s a pre-K–12 level, or it’s the higher ed level, in regard to what we reference as soft skills.”

Sara Taylor, managing director of talent and HR at Rocky Mountain Prep, is similarly concerned about whether creative skills are being appropriately valued and fostered in today’s classrooms. “Too many people interpret [creativity] as coloring a pretty picture or making a painting versus being creative around the ways in which they’re tackling something,” rather than understanding the important role it plays in fueling critical thinking and creative problem solving skills.

I couldn’t have said it better if I tried. This is something we come up against a lot—what creativity means. Creativity is a driving force of success across a variety of diverse passions. And yes, it’s even critical for careers that you might think are all about hard skills—like data science. Lilia Tsalenko, senior executive talent partner at Box, underscored this: “The job description I’m sure requires certain educational background and certain experience, but with the definition of Data Scientist, they must be creative, be able to communicate across teams, and collaborate with them.”

Second, How can job seekers who possess these skills better showcase them on paper (e.g., resumes) and in practice (e.g., job interviews)?

Showing and telling who you are in a highly creative way or in a seemingly pragmatic way really all comes down to storytelling. Can you present the story of You in a way that highlights all your technical experience and your creative skills? If all candidates come to the table with the same technical qualifications, what are the qualities that will set one person apart from the rest? It’s the creative skills and how a candidate brings them to life that will make them a must-hire.

“I’d rather see a little bit of narrative in someone’s resume than just bullet-pointed words and a list,” said Carrie Bucci, people operations consultant at Mixtape Talent. “If someone can really give more of a narrative around how they have collaborated in their present or former job. How they’ve creatively solved problems before. How they applied critical thinking to achieve results and what the impact has been on the organization.”

As the son of immigrants, M. Night Shyamalan shared on the MAX stage how he used the strong work ethic that his parents nurtured at an early age and “brought this into a more amorphous field” of writing and filmmaking. As a self-proclaimed “eternal optimist,” Shyamalan stresses the importance of learning for one’s self and maintaining agency, noting that so many students are often talked out of their agency at a formative period in their lives. He owes his own success to the agency he developed early, which was nourished through the support of those around him, including his parents, and shared, “[I am] more willing to be me than other people are willing to be them.” Owning his story has been critical to Shyamalan’s success, and according to the findings of our study, being able to own and tell the story of You, no matter who you are or what career field you’re in, will be critical for success in today’s—and tomorrow’s—workforce.

Let’s Make #CreativityforAll a Movement

To be successful in a future comprised of yet-to-be-defined jobs, educators must work to ensure today’s students are given the tools to develop these skills that will differentiate them from tomorrow’s competition.

How best to get started? Educators everywhere can make great strides with a few small, manageable steps.

  1. Please visit our website to read the full “GET HIRED” study. Be inspired by it.
  2. Think about ways you can incorporate more creativity into your classroom and work. Use our community resources such as Adobe Education Exchange like 700,000 teachers across the world do to bring creativity into the classroom: https://edex.adobe.com.
  3. Make the Leap and get started with a “creativity experiment” in your classroom.

I am certain your commitment and investment in the next generation will bring out their creativity superpowers and set them up for success in the workforce! I look forward to seeing your beautiful stories at #CreativityforAll. We love reading them—they inspire us to do what we do at Adobe.