23 Jan 2018

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Creativity will boost career prospects in the fourth industrial revolution

Recognising the value of creativity and the arts will help New Zealand to meet some of the many challenges we will face as the fourth industrial revolution unfolds.

After enjoying some time recharging, and reconnecting with family and friends, my thoughts have turned to the year ahead and the new skills that Kiwi workers will need to thrive in the future.

And while the future is notoriously difficult to predict, one thing seems certain:  technology will increasingly challenge traditional business models, and require many of us to learn new skills.

As we enter what has been termed the fourth industrial revolution – a period of rapid and fundamental change brought about by the convergence of the internet and technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics – there is one workplace skill becoming rapidly more valuable.

This skill is creativity, and it is fast ascending the World Economic Forum’s list of the ten most important skills workers need to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution. Up from tenth place in 2015, it will be in third by 2020, behind only critical thinking and complex problem-solving skills.

Workers will need to become more creative to get the most out of new technologies, and to ensure their skills remain relevant in an increasingly competitive, shrinking global labour market. In light of the findings of a study showing robots are now replacing human workers at a rate of five to one in the US, it’s clear the challenges of this brave new world will soon confront workers across the globe.

So how do we become more creative in the workplace? The good news is everyone can be creative. Like most skills, creativity needs to be practiced and findings from a study of science and technology graduates in the US suggests the earlier we start, the better.  This found those involved in creative pursuits as children were more likely to start companies and file patents during their careers.

With this in mind it’s great to see young New Zealanders from around the country igniting their creative spark with the help of Wellington-based not-for-profit Capital E. Through initiatives like the Roxy5 Short Film Competition, where the winning team gets to remake its entry alongside film industry professionals, CapitalE inspires young people to pursue careers in the creative industries.  

This is the sort of initiative that will be applauded I’m sure by WeCreate, the industry group that supports our diverse array of creative industries, which from publishers to computer game developers, employ 41,000 and have a $3.8 billion economic impact. WeCreate says a joint public-private sector economic development plan will help our creative industries realise their potential.

The views of WeCreate are echoed in the UK by the Warwick Commission in its report into culture, creativity and growth. It describes a cultural and creative ecosystem inhabited by public good cultural and creative organisations like art galleries and museums alongside creative industries. Just like a biological ecosystem, its parts sustain each other as well as a healthy and vigorous whole. The commission’s finding that more value is created when private and public sectors collaborate suggests WeCreate could be right in advocating a joint approach to planning for industry growth.

But the value of a vibrant cultural and creative ecosystem goes far beyond the economic sphere. And as we strive to adapt to life in this rapidly unfolding and somewhat uncertain new industrial age, we should not ignore the growing body of evidence showing the many ways in which the arts add value.

As Arts Council of New Zealand Chair, and a former creative industry employee, I am reminded of this every day. From stimulating creativity in the minds of future entrepreneurs and innovators, to art therapies that reduce anxiety and depression and raise the quality of life for suffers of dementia (a growing crisis that could cost US$ 1 trillion or more than 1 per cent of global GDP in 2018), engagement in the arts brings significant and varied benefits to the lives of so many people.

Research carried out by Creative New Zealand shows the vast majority of us understand the value of the arts. It’s my hope in 2018 and beyond that government policy makers will recognise this value by considering social, cultural, economic, and environmental well-being equally. This will help creative and talented Kiwis adapt to the changing demands of the modern workplace, and perhaps more importantly, it will mean the country we call home is far richer – in every sense of the word.