For Tomorrow’s Leaders, Creativity is More Powerful Than Technology

by James McCready

posted on 11-29-2019

Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robotic process automation (RPA) — what seemed like far-flung, futuristic technology a few years ago is now central to the modern business, especially one that’s focused on delivering relevant and personalized customer experiences.

It’s a seismic shift that’s impacting not just the way we do business, but how we engage with brands and experiences, how we consume content, how we make purchases, and, even, how we educate tomorrow’s innovators and game changers. That final piece — how universities educate the future workforce — is critically important to keeping this unparalleled momentum going.

But it’s not more high-tech training the next generation needs. It’s a greater emphasis on developing and applying creative thinking across all business functions and future roles.

Helping the next generation workforce excel and accelerate

To ensure the future workforce excels — and we, as an industry, can continue growth and innovation — it’s essential universities and early career training programs encourage the rising generation to develop their creative “muscle” and then have the opportunity to use it — to think, solve problems, invent in new ways, and, ultimately, deliver exceptional outcomes.

Right now, though, we aren’t. Creativity is being stifled by educational systems, say 59% of global respondents on Adobe’s Global Creativity Gap study. That’s problematic. Focus on the tech side of things and you’ll have students with behind-the-curve experience on their resumes. As quickly as students learn AI, machine learning, and RPA, the technology makes significant advances. Keeping up, then, requires ongoing upskilling.

Bring creativity to the forefront in universities and career training, though, and students will gain the skills they need for interdisciplinary collaboration, complex problem solving, and innovation — skills that are always valuable and timely. Some schools already do this. In the United States, Carnegie Mellon University, for example, requires a creative skills course for all undergraduates. By entering the workforce with this perspective, students are better equipped for all that comes next.

Training business leaders to think creatively

Creative training isn’t needed just by university students, though. Creativity should be applied to organizations’ personnel and career-development initiatives, and promoted within existing teams. In that same Adobe study, just one in four believes they’re living up to their creative potential, and just 39% of global respondents describe themselves as being creative. Much of this can be attributed to that proverbial grind — three in four say they’re under pressure to produce rather than to be creative at work.

To start enhancing creativity in business and, with it, greater innovation, organizations should start by drilling down on diversity in every sense of the word. Diverse teams outpace homogenous teams when it comes to innovation — they see things from different angles, bring new perspectives, and promote different values. That, then, fuels discourse, alternative ways of thinking, and creativity — and that creativity fuels innovation. Creativity-to-innovation circle complete.

Balancing cost and creative learning

Granted, these creativity and innovation mandates are surfacing while the cost of education — and the cost to deliver this next-level education to tomorrow’s business leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators — is rising.

I recently spoke with the President of Bentley University who was conducting a global study tour, visiting alumni and prospective students in my hometown of Tokyo, Japan. Our discussion landed on the future of work and, with it, the rising cost — and cost to students — to educate tomorrow’s leaders. With an emphasis on investing on that next-level technology and associated labs, experts, and resources, it’s easy to see why costs continue to sky-rocket. And while it’s necessary to understand the technology impacting modern business and innovation, the future of work demands those soft skills — the empathy, creativity, collaboration, and compromise that powers organizations in this cluttered, experience-first landscape.

That type of learning doesn’t necessarily add to the tuition bill — but, as hiring managers — new hires with these skill sets will no doubt add to our collective bottom line.

Topics: Creativity, Career Advice, APAC