22nd February 2019
The Art of Learning Part 1: Why Creativity is the Most In-Demand Skill of 2019
“Creativity is the ability to take people by surprise. It’s a human quality…machines can never
– Daniel Susskind (speaking at Learning Technologies 2019)
At the beginning of this year, LinkedIn Learning released insights on ‘The Skills Companies Need Most in 2019’. Time management, persuasion and adaptability were all cited in the list of soft skills (or intangibles) most valued this year, but the top skill may come as a surprise to you.
Often overlooked as something confined to art studios, writers’ desks or music studios, you wouldn’t be alone in thinking this year’s most desired skill – creativity – is not one typically associated with the corporate workplace.
- “But I’m not an artist.”
- “My job isn’t in any way creative.”
- “I wasn’t born with creative talent.”
- “I don’t know anything about creativity.”
- “You can’t teach creativity.”
Listed above are some of the responses I frequently encounter when discussing how people perceive their own creative abilities. Do any of them sound familiar?
There is a corrosive mentality ingrained in our educational system that’s designed to tell us that if we do not excel at particular subjects, we are failures. If we do not achieve the right grades in the core subjects of maths, science and English, then we’re led to believe we are not academic. If we consistently receive low marks in art or music exams, then we are deemed not artistic. Embarrassed by these ‘failures’, we continue to avoid these pursuits as adults. The textbooks are eventually consigned to a dusty box in the attic and sketchpads torn into the bin, never to be replaced.
It’s no surprise then, that when asked to state whether they think they are creative or not, people are quick to bristle and dismiss any creative output to “a bit of silly doodling” or “just messing about”. But there’s far more to creativity than “just messing about”.
It’s a seriously valued skill – one which can give people the freedom to experiment with concepts, analyse different perspectives, actively engage with learning and, ultimately, promote innovation. And, despite what your art teacher might have told you, it’s a skill that anyone can learn to apply.
Creativity and Innovation – What’s The Link?
“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.” — Theodore Levitt
Creativity is at the heart of innovation – which is why these terms are often used interchangeably. According to Cambridge International, creativity is “an active process necessarily involved in innovation. It is a learning habit that requires skill as well as specific understanding of the contexts in which creativity is being applied.”
This is precisely why some of the most innovative and successful organisations are those that are most creative. They reinvent past ideas and concepts to produce refreshing new ideas. Computer software company Adobe, for example, is known to place value on creative skills in a way which is conducive to continuous learning. By avoiding micromanagement and instead positioning the manager as coach, employees are supported to set their own goals and are given the creative freedom to think of their own unique ways to achieve them. The beauty of this is that it encourages autonomy and risk-taking without leaving employees completely isolated.
It’s an approach that’s therefore perfectly aligned to the needs of the modern learner.
What Valuable Characteristics Do Creative People Possess?
So, what do creative employees have that makes them so attractive to today’s employers?
Some of the most valuable attributes include:
– A Curious Mindset
Creativity is dependent on us engaging with a playful curiosity that we once had as children, but have long since been taught to stifle as adults. As young children, we were all naturally imaginative and inquisitive. Inventing pretend characters for ourselves through play helped us to see the world from different perspectives. We asked over 70 questions per day, relentlessly pursuing knowledge. We dreamed up the most imaginative possibilities, treating even the most outlandish notions with as much reverence as the most logical. When people are able to reconnect with that sense of playfulness, they break free from their paralysing fear of failure, explore new possibilities, generate new ideas – and become far more engaged with their work as a result.
And the more engaged employees are, the more productive, positive and motivated of your workforce is.
– The Ability to Redefine Questions
To discover innovative solutions, we must adopt a creative approach to thinking – and this means finding new ways of exploring seemingly straightforward questions.
Creativity is naturally conducive to learning – it’s all about applying existing knowledge, challenging questions, exploring possibilities and really digging below the surface of a problem. By reframing questions in new and creative ways, a new set of answers can be found, unforeseen problems uncovered and a greater range of perspectives explored.
– A Willingness to Challenge Established Knowledge
The most forward-thinking organisations are those that embrace change by disrupting the status quo. Creative thinking itself involves a process of disruption and deep questioning in order to reinvent outdated ideas – something that’s crucial in helping organisations adapt to the fast-changing business landscape of today.
A team that is able to debate and challenge each other’s thoughts and follow up with constructive criticism is far more likely to produce higher quality creative ideas than a team that simply accepts an idea at face value.
A truly creative team is one that is always fearlessly thinking ahead, never nervously dithering behind.
– Collaborative Skills
According to Innovation Arts, “creativity is ignited when diverse ideas are united, or when ideas from one domain influence those of another, which is the true meaning of collaboration.” This is why some of the best ideas are produced when creative minds come together and is the reason brainstorming sessions continue to endure in office culture. An example of one of the most successful workplace cultures for promoting an ethos of creativity and collaboration can be found in the online marketplace Etsy.
According to the company website, Etsy believes “learning from each other can foster not just cognitive development, but community connections as well”, which is why its employees are encouraged to take advantage of its own Etsy School. Etsy School is an internal series of courses – from programming to jewellery making – that employees can teach each other in order to foster a thriving culture of creativity, collaboration and continuous learning.
According to the LinkedIn Learning report, “while robots are great at optimizing old ideas, organizations most need creative employees who can conceive the solutions of tomorrow”. And in this age of uncertainty, globalisation and rapid technological advancement, we must learn to value those unique human qualities that, along with technology, we can employ to help our organisations stay one step ahead of the game.
Creativity is not limited to the arts. It’s not about being born gifted. It doesn’t require prior knowledge. If you’ve got the willingness to ask questions, challenge the status quo and stay curious, you’ve got everything you need to get creative.
f you’re looking for the right blend to encourage a more creative approach to learning in your organisation, we’ve got the tools and expertise to help you succeed. Request a demo to arrange to speak to one of our experts.
In the next post, we’ll be looking at some simple steps you can take and tools you can use to encourage creativity in your organisation. Keep an eye on our blog and social media
channels to see when these insights are published: