March 28, 2019
In our book “Flex or Fail”, we describe how advances in technology and automation are impacting jobs and pay. By 2030, automation will displace around 15% of current workers, and impact work activities of around 60% of peoples jobs. Job losses will disproportionately affect lower paid and younger workers, especially those undertaking routine repetitive tasks.
Forecasters predict professional roles and workers in creative industries are least likely to be affected by automation as the ‘human factor’ in these activities will remain superior to what technology will deliver. However Marcus du Sautoy, in his recent book ‘The Creativity Code’ challenges this orthodoxy.
In the UK for example, around 3.1 million people work in the ‘creative economy’, which makes up around 10% of the overall workforce. Traditionally these roles would include designers, writers, artists, jobs in advertising, architects etc. However, increasingly, creative skills are in demand from other industry sectors including project management, software development and organisational design roles. Demand for people with ‘creative skills’ are amongst the fastest growing terms found in job adverts. So far, so good, but can machines do the job better and cheaper than the ‘creatives’ themselves?
Du Sautoy, who is a professor of mathematics, outlines three types of creativity that are partly based on the work of Margaret Boden, a cognitive scientist:
- Combinational creativity: based on making connections between multiple existing ideas to generate a new idea. This approach is based on the synthesis of a group of existing ideas which, when forced by a ‘trigger event’, allow combinations to occur that result in the generation of a new idea(s)
- Explorative creativity: based on exploration of ideas already in your head that lead to new ideas. Based on exploring ‘beyond what you know’ by experimenting without knowing what the outcome may be. This ‘curiosity for the unexpected’ may lead to new ideas beyond simple combinations of existing ideas.
- Transformational creativity: coming up with ‘impossible ideas’ by changing the ‘rules of the game’ that lead to radical thinking. Based on assuming that an idea in your head is based on the wrong premise. As such, challenge existing rules to assume they are wrong, and then generate new ideas without these pre-conceived constraints
The first two types of creativity are highly likely to be impacted by the increasing power and precision of algorithms and AI. Even transformational creativity, which appears to be a truly human trait, is likely to be challenged by machine learning and increasingly smart programming techniques.
So will speed, precision and volume of creative output be won by machines or be retained by humans? In our book, “Flex or Fail”, we support the belief that the demand for creative thinkers will continue to increase as organisations strive to maintain competitive advantage. We also predict new technologies will make inroads into creative functions, but this will create more new roles rather than displace incumbents. Even when machines create new ideas and designs, we recognise three further steps that people, rather than machines, will need to control:
- Creative ideas will need to be recognised and qualified
- Creative ideas will need to be adapted and contextualised
- Creative ideas will need to be implemented effectively
Individuals and business leaders increasingly recognise the value of creativity, and how this drives development of new products, services and value. But creativity and aesthetics also go hand in hand. Evaluation of creativity always requires a judgement of beauty. Buckminster Fuller, a renowned inventor, said that “problem-solving is wrong when it is not beautiful”.
Will machines be able to judge beauty like humans? Not until they can truly become conscious. Until then, ‘creatives’ will still have the upper hand. This however should not stop business leaders taking a ‘deep dive’ into their organisations to benchmark how technology and people can work together in the most effective way to generate creative output and transform this into value.
Based on the key themes described in the book, we have developed the ‘Flex Index’™. This tool enables organisations to benchmark where they currently are across seven ‘key domains’ that include strategy, technology readiness, organisational culture and communication. Backed up by some fifty measurable factors, this measurement will allow business leaders to evaluate their organisations in terms of readiness for change, and make informed decisions for key areas of development. The outcome will provide important insights for strategic planning around the concept of ‘responsible change’. The conclusions and can form a basis for organisational leaders to form a narrative and communications strategy that supports engagement with both internal and external stakeholders.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to be amongst a core group of innovative companies who work with this method first.
by Tony Felton, Robby Mol, Arturo Bris who welcome your comments!