Unleashing limitless creativity: A win-win for employers and employees

Adobe MAX 2021 colourful blog header.

Rapid advances in technology, COVID-19 and a shift to more responsible and sustainable business practices are changing the nature of how, when and why we work.

For today’s workforce, creativity has emerged as a critical skill and competitive advantage for navigating the positive and challenging disruption brought about by these global forces.

Studies by industry-leading organisations such as Forrester, LinkedIn and the World Economic Forum show that creativity is now fundamental to future personal and professional success.

But while a ‘creative career’ might have once been a category prescribed to the likes of artists, designers or marketing professionals, our digital-first world has broadened the definition.

“When we talk about creativity today, we’re talking about it in terms of the importance of innovation and critical thinking to solve tricky problems,” explains Sarah Maddison, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education, Experience and Employability) at Swinburne University of Technology.

“This certainly occurs in STEM, as much as it does in business, as much as it does in the humanities, as much as it does in the creative areas.”

With this in mind, let’s look at how each of us can activate a more creative mindset in our approach to work.

It all starts with digital literacy

Digital literacy is critical for the democratisation of creativity and success in the modern workforce.

It empowers us to be effective creators, communicators, critical thinkers, and collaborators by using today’s digital tools to demonstrate knowledge and tell stories with impact.

Sarah says students and staff at Swinburne University of Technology are encouraged to grow their digital literacy across three key areas which complement today’s data-driven workforce: technology literacy, information literacy and critical literacy.

“We want our students and staff to have a much richer idea of digital literacies than just, “Oh, I know how to use a digital tool.” Or, “I know how to use digital skills to find information,” she explains.

“We want them to really think much more critically about where the information comes from and who’s going to have access to it? It’s very important to present students with those ideas for them to also ponder and interrogate.”

Melbourne-based illustrator and designer Adrianne (Anne) Walujo has seen first-hand how a strong foundation of digital skills and literacy can benefit a career.

Anne has built a successful corporate career, working on creative projects with brands such as Microsoft, CARE Australia and Adobe.

Reflecting on her student years — and her ongoing creative journey — she says, “It’s really important to develop the creative skills required to compete in today’s digital world, and not only rely solely on your university education or formal training.”

“Taking initiative and developing these skills early on, allows you to find your niche and reconcile your knowledge between university and the real workplace.”

Illustration (by Adrianne Walujo). Girl in yellow top, holding flower

The creative career toolkit

Concept artist Jeff Chen grew up flexing his creative streak, drawing aesthetic inspiration from the anime movies and video games he watched and played as a teenager.

Today, he’s paired his creative skills with his business smarts to build an exciting career working with some of Asia Pacific’s most recognised game developers, including Wizards of the Coast, Hi-Rez Studios, Team Liquid, Netease and many more.

For Jeff, digital tools have provided him with the freedom and flexibility not only to grow, experiment and improve his artistic skills over time but compete in an increasingly digital business landscape.

“If you look at the current media industry, particularly games and film, concept art is all digital, contrary to just a few decades ago when it was all hand-drawn illustrations or matte paintings,” says Jeff.

“Learning digitally — at least for me — was much faster. In a world where time is money, digital allows you to retest the fundamentals, without having to redraw everything from scratch.”

Like Jeff, Anne’s also expanded her creative repertoire through informative and free online tools.

“I have always learned digital design by myself. Lots of digital tutorials are available online, so it is down to you to commit to learning and to keep creating,” she explains.

At a workplace level, Anne cautions that businesses who fail to recognise these digital ways of learning “are limiting the creative talent that can be involved on creative projects.”

Making a difference

While Jeff and Anne are enjoying plenty of career fulfilment in their creative roles, it’s a different story for others in their generation.

Adobe’s own research shows Gen Z are leading the ‘great resignation’ — more than half say they plan to pursue a new job in the next year, while 59 percent claim they’re dissatisfied with their jobs overall.

“I wonder whether that shift is a combination of the changing nature of the workforce, but indeed changing expectations,” says Sarah.

“There’s a real appetite, particularly among younger generations, to ignite a sense of purpose within their careers and the organisations they work for. People want to make an impact in life and in the world, and be challenged as well.”

For Jeff, being happy in your job comes down to loving what you do.

“We do art because we love it. Yes, we have the opportunity to earn money from it — but that’s not the focus.”

Illustration (by Jeff Chen).

“Creatives can sometimes experience a lot of self-doubt. I always say just enjoy the process. As long as you keep drawing and keep putting time into your craft you will improve.”

At this moment, the power of creativity and it’s ability to have a global impact in our lives has never been more relevant.

For each of us, it’s time to ask, “How can I use my creativity to solve challenging problems that will have an impact?”

Adobe MAX is a global virtual experience, exploring creativity in all its forms. Register for free today and stream the event from 26-28 October to hear from Sarah Maddison, Adrianne (Anne) Walujo, Jeff Chen and more.