Uniquely Human: Creative People, Creative Future

“Despite concerns that they are not prepared for the new era and the job losses that will result from automation, majorities in Canada, the U.K., and the U.S. believe that advancements in machine learning will do more good than harm overall. And when asked about the best skills to withstand artificial intelligence, six in 10 respondents in Canada and the U.K. believe teamwork, communication, creativity, and critical thinking are most important in the new era of automation; whereas Americans are split 50-50 between those “soft” skills and technical skills like math, science, coding, and working with data.” -via TechXplore Ignore the hand-wringing headlines about the impending AI revolution, but get ready for the disruption

We live in a time of disruption…

A time that is being defined by the current level of digital disruption we are experiencing. And unfortunately, it is technology, not humans that seem to be taking center stage and playing the hero in the future narrative we are currently writing.

In many ways, we only have ourselves to blame, as we have set the stage for this story…

From government, to business, and even education, we have pushed through the 19th and 20th centuries on a mantra focused on efficiency and standardization. Our Tayloristic assembly-line approach that provided efficiency and effectiveness in prior times, seems to be a bit of our undoing in the present and for the future. As John Hagel shares in Rethinking Race Against the Machines, “If you have tightly scripted jobs that are highly standardized where there’s no room for individual initiative or creativity, machines by and large, can do those activities much better than human beings. They’re much more predictable, they’re much more reliable.”

Efficiency and standardization has become a sign of our past and present times…

For our future, of one that is being continuously shaped and shifted by our ability to automate and infuse artificial intelligence, this idea of standardization should then be sending some very strong signals of discord and incompatibility. Especially as we find that the very idea of standardization has set the stage for the entrance of machine learning and with it, greater levels of automation.

Which means we have to begin to consider not only the skills that will be necessary and needed in and for the future, but those skills that are also uniquely human. Those skills that stand the test of time, and automation.

While there are many, the road always seems to lead back to creativity.

In many ways, we live in times where we all have to be creative now, no matter what we do. Creativity has always been, and even more now, continues to be a vital skillset for the future. Unfortunately, in the past, we tended to relegate creativity to something that was only needed by the artistic class, rather than a skillset that serves us all, in both our personal and professional lives.

Too often, we have limited the idea of creativity to that of the artist, instead of seeing that creativity can exist in all that we do. Especially as we look to the future and the skills that it is requesting – critical-thinking, problem-solving, communication, collaboration, innovation – we see that creativity can and should be infused into how we approach and utilize all of those skills. As Creative Director Stefan Mumaw defines it, “Creativity is problem-solving with relevance and novelty.” Which means, that we live in a time when efficiency and standardization have effectively run their course, and the need for more creative thinking and creative solutions is taking center stage and exponentially expanding into every profession.

In an age that is being defined by automation and artificial intelligence, we can no longer afford to not be creative.

We begin first by realizing that creativity is not a trait that only certain “artistic” individuals are born with. Rather, it is a skill that we all possess. Creativity is a skill that we can continuously improve upon, that we can continue to get better at. However, with that said, it is also like a muscle, and the more we use it the stronger it gets. And vice versa. The less we use it the more atrophied it gets. Which is why it is important that we exercise our creative muscle more and more, as it is a skill that makes us uniquely human in a time when what makes us uniquely human is becoming more and more vital to our future success.

Second, we have to determine, in regards to creativity, that we begin to unlearn, in order that we may reengage and relearn. As what we have learned, is that we have become better and better over time of diminishing our creative spirit. As shared in the article, What is Creativity? Defining Defining the Skill of the Future Kylie Ora Lobell adds, “Research proves that non-creative behavior is learned overtime. According to George Land’s Creativity Test, young children are creative geniuses, and become less creative as they age. His study took a group of 1,600 five-year-olds and tested to see how creative they were. Ninety-eight percent were deemed creative geniuses, thinking in novel ways similar to the likes of Picasso, Mozart, Einstein and other creative personalities. He tested them again at 10 years old. That number dropped to 30 percent. By 15 years of age, it had declined to 12 percent. He gave the same test to 280,000 adults and found that only 2 percent were creative geniuses.”

We can no longer afford to diminish, be that in our business or educational organizations, the creativity and creative thinking of our people. Instead, we have to look to opportunities to reengage and flex our creative muscles, especially in a time when the solutions to our most pressing problems may require a much more creative and innovative approach.

Or as Mike Walsh shares in his book The Algorithmic Leader, “Here is the important part of the story: while machines will get dramatically better at extracting insights from data, spotting patterns, and even making decisions on our behalf, only humans will have the unique ability to imagine innovative ways to use machine intelligence to create experiences, transform organizations, and reinvent the world.”

While the future is currently being defined by changes brought on by the digital disruption, automation, and artificial intelligence, which is bringing about deep changes to how we communicate, learn, live and work. What have to realize, especially in regards to this skills upheaval, is that some skills will continue to shift and change, and some skills will continue to stand the test of time.

Creativity is one of those skills to continuously stands the test of time. One of those skills that remains uniquely human.

So, while it seemed that in the Industrial Age, we were intent on finding the Einstein’s. In the Exponential Age, more and more, we find ourselves looking more for the DaVinci’s.

“You can provide a great education, but if that education is not getting drafted into future skills, questions will be raised about the value of that education.” -T. Kapilashrami, Group Head, HR Standard Chartered Bank


The New Electricity: And The Challenge Of Change

“The adoption and integration of artificial intelligence into the global economy is set to impact the lives of hundreds of millions of workers around the globe. Some experts estimate this disruption could result in the loss of up to 50% of the world’s jobs as these positions are replaced by AI and Automation. Preparing the global workforce for this disruption and equipping displaced workers with new skills that allow them to succeed in this environment is essential. The challenge posed by preparing the workforce and allowing workers to continue to add to their skills for the future will require coordination on the part of higher education, business and government.”  -Facing the Future: U.S., U.K. and Canadian Citizens Call for A Unified Skills Strategy for the AI Age via Northeastern University and Gallup

For many, we seem to be approaching the future unfolding before us with very trepidatious steps, moving forward with a sense of both wonder and fear of what is to come. It is a time of great change, and it remains difficult to fathom how deep and far-reaching these changes will be. This is a mind shift for all of us. As this digital disruption is touching every part of our lives, both personally, professionally and socially. As Andrew Ng, former Baidu Chief Scientiest, Coursera co-founder, and Stanford Adjunct Professor shares, “Artificial Intelligence is the new electricity.”

And it is on a course, much like electricity, to change everything.

Many see the often volatile and accelerated rate at which technology is bringing about change as a Pandora’s Box that needs to be closed, and closed soon. However, that is a door that will no longer shut, as innovation has this tendency and will to find its way. Make no doubt about it, this disruption is upon us and no matter how many times we click our heels and mumble “there’s no place like home,” it remains wishful thinking to believe that things will go back to “how they used to be.”

So now, the question becomes, what kind of narrative is it that we are going to write for the future?

Will this be a technology-centered story?

Or will this be a human-centered future?

What we often fail to realize, is that we are the ones in control of determining who will be the hero in this narrative…

And unfortunately, right now, technology seems to be winning that recognition.

But it does not have to be that way.  

In all actuality, it is up to us to design the future, not for the future to design us. We have to strategically determine what kind of world we want to create, what kind of world we want to live in, and not just accept the future that is coming at us as predetermined and set in stone.

We are the future-makers and we write the story.

While there is no crystal ball that allows us to determine how to future-proof our children for a world that is shifting in exponential ways, we can sometimes turn to the past to see how it may shed some light on how to approach this uncertain and often ambiguous future.

Which takes us back to Andrew Ng and the idea of Artificial Intelligence as being the “new electricity.” As we compare the disruption of electricity in the past, to our current technological and digital disruption.

While the times and the pace of change were quite different, we can see parallels in how overwhelming these “industrial revolutions” were to people, both personally and professionally, and what they required of people, especially in the midst of deep personal, professional, organizational, and societal shifts.  Shifts that required…

  • Adaptability and Agility
  • Initiative
  • Resilience
  • Critical, Creative and Innovative Thinking
  • Problem-Solving
  • Learning New Skills and Behaviors
  • Shifting of Mental Models

While, with every paradigm shift, the mantra remains that there have never been times like these before…we realize that there really have never been times like these before. Especially as companies like McKinsey Global Institute share research that points to, “Automation technologies are likely to transform the vast majority of jobs” and “The next generation of digital tools will bring even more far-reaching changes in the decade ahead.” It becomes very difficult to determine if we will cope effectively with the current and coming changes that will be brought upon us by the accelerating nature of innovative technologies and the digital disruption.

Especially as business, government, higher education and education as a whole struggle to parallel pace the current rate and volatility of change.

We know that these shifts of the past were disruptive as well, but we adapted, adjusted, and learned to move forward. However, many say that this change is different and it is difficult to determine how effectively we will come out on the other side. Which means we are going to have to be much more determined in how we strategically design our way forward, as well as remain vitally aware of current and coming shifts to better support us in how we prepare our children for this very non-obvious and unknown future.

Especially if we are going to create a human-centered future narrative where our children truly become the hero of the story…

“A central challenge in the automation age will be connecting millions of displaced workers to new, growing jobs. Some may need to change jobs within the same company, and employers would provide the necessary training in these situations. But many workers may need to find work with new employers or make even bigger transitions to different occupations in new locations. A survey of US households found that more than half of workers displaced between 2005 and 2015 found their next job in a different industry. For these workers, governments and other stakeholders can help to make local labor markets more fluid and easier to navigate.”  -The Future of Work in America: People and Places, Today and Tomorrow via McKinsey Global Institute