Creativity is the Next Universal Skill

There are skills that we take for granted in our day-to-day lives until we meet someone who lacks that skill. Driving is one good example. Although it would be a stretch to say that everyone in the world knows how to drive, in most industrial cultures, the odd-person out is the one who cannot drive an automobile or at least familiar with driving.

Typing has also rapidly become a universal skill, in some ways replacing handwriting. Reading, writing, math, cooking, etc… these are all skills the majority of people have at some level.

The World Economic Forum predicts that “Creativity” will be one of the top 3 most important job skills by 2020. Yet, few understand that creativity is a skill that they can practice like any other skill.

Creativity, or creative thinking, is not a skill that many people believe they have. They often say that it’s something designers have, or possibly very talented people, but not them. Like art, when it comes to being creative, most people agree that “I don’t know much about it, but I know what I like.”

Yes, any skill can be a talent, but some skills become so important that everyone needs to have at least some level of proficiency.

For example, in the 1970s almost no one thought about owning a computer, much less being skilled at using one. However, only a few decades later, most people own one or more “supercomputers” that they carry around in their pocket and rely on for day-to-day use. This doesn’t mean they are all experts, but virtually everyone has developed some level of computer literacy: the skill of using computers. Using a computer is now a universal skill.

Simply stated, creativity is the ability to take information from a variety of sources and meld those ideas into new and novel ways of thinking about or solving a problem. This is something that computers cannot do, at least not in the way that we think of creativity.

Like driving and using computers, creativity is rapidly becoming a universal skill.

A computer might be able to beat the greatest chess player, or trounce the greatest Jeopardy player, but these are not creative tasks. They simply require massive data crunching. As the Good Doctor observed:

The trouble with computers is they’re very sophisticated idiots. They do exactly what you tell them at amazing speeds. — Doctor Who

“The trouble with computers, of course, is that they’re very sophisticated idiots.” — Doctor Who

Anything involving clearly definable tasks, computers will always do better than humans. Robots are faster, more accurate, and will work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They will soon replace drivers, factory workers, accountants, reporters, soldiers, delivery people, and many other jobs.

The one job they cannot do is anything that requires creative problem solving: finding a solution that is not easy to infer or piece together from the collected data. Without getting too philosophical about the nature of human intelligence, there are things to which “artificial” intelligence will always be alien.

Improving your creativity requires study and practice, like any other skill. There will always be people for whom creativity seems to come more easily, just as their are basketball players who are more skilled. But that doesn’t mean you give up playing just because you aren’t Michael Jordan. You look up to and emulate them, and keep practicing from the free throw line until you consistently make your shot.


Does you team need creativity training? We offer workshops to help.

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