We are about to enter an Age of Creativity; successful Leadership will be about creating cultures that encourage creativity and help employees unlock the four creative superpowers of Maker, Hacker, Teacher and Thief.
As technology continues to accelerate at pace, there are only two skills that will differentiate us from robots: creativity and emotional intelligence. Consequently it is no surprise that business leaders, in a report commissioned by the World Economic Forum, placed creativity as the third most key skill in the workplace in 2020, jumping it from tenth position in 2015.
In the future, the businesses that thrive rather than survive will have the ability to turn ideas into value faster than their competitors. And to do this business must use creativity to awaken the ‘seeking system’. The seeking system is a part of the brain that starts firing when we feel an urge to try new things and learn as much a possible about our environments. As Daniel Cable says in his fantastic book, Alive at Work, “The seeking system doesn’t seem to reward us for innovation, and creativity, but rather it drives and propels these behaviours. … [it] is optimal in work settings because it urges us into action instead of making us complacent.”
And before you say, but not everyone is creative, Akon’uche' (craft and thought) is the Igbo word for 'creativity'. However when directly translated it means 'human ability and reflects the fact we are all creative. So how can you unleash creativity in your people?
By tapping into the four key creative superpowers we have identified and celebrated in our book Creative Superpowers, Equip Yourself for the Age of Creativity:
- Maker - Makers are people who recognise the difference between making and doing. It is only makers that create culture and deliver real change. They are people who understand that the best way to make something happen is to make something happen
- Hacker - Hackers are people who assume that something is broken and look for ways to fix it. They enjoy the challenge of creatively overcoming and circumventing limitations of systems to achieve novel and clever outcomes. Hackers understand that the best way to solve a big problem is to break it down into smaller parts and solve each of these smaller parts.
- Teacher - In a world that is moving so quickly, the first person you need to teach is yourself. Only then can you teach others. As Alvin Toffler predicted “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
- Thief - As Grayson Perry so eloquently put it “Originality is for people with short memories.” So many businesses confuse invention and innovation. Some of the most interesting innovations come from taking something that has been implemented elsewhere and then finding a novel use for it.
The best leaders will be the ones who can create the environment in which people with these creative superpowers can really thrive. Leaders who awaken seeking systems, place creativity on the Board’s Agenda, respect that creativity is a universal human endeavour and, most fundamentally, the only thing that will keep the machines at bay. But of course you also need to relearn, so take the time to unleash your own creative superpowers. We’re confident that once you do, not only your job be easier, but you will find you have far more fun doing it.
A version of this piece first appeared in People Management on 4th July.