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Re-defining creativity: getting creative in a digital age

Spare a thought for the humble accountant. As AI and machine learning come to the fore, roles based on a ‘bank of knowledge’ – like law and medicine – face the threat of automation.

In tandem with these technologies, we’re seeing a meteoric rise in tech jobs. Developers, analysts and database administration roles will grow by up to 57 per cent in the next two years. So, where does this leave creatives?

Technology has one fundamental flaw

It’s not all doom and gloom, of course. When we turn it on its head, we can see technology as an asset, rather than a threat. What AI and machine learning offer in analytics, they lack in creativity.

Feed a machine learning algorithm two ideas, and watch it try to make a third. Machines lack the basic capability to come up with abstract concepts. This is where creatives come in.

Only now are we beginning to understand the true value of these people and their problem-solving talents. Iteration comes from machine learning and automation. Step change comes from creativity.

What are we looking for when we hire a ‘creative’?

Creative skills aren’t always easy to identify in an interview process. A lot of it comes down to how we’re educated. In years gone by, for example, academics saw creativity as a ‘fluffy’ skill – today, we’re realising that it’s actually not that easy to be creative.

Instead, we’re looking for personal qualities like humility. Try teaching that to a machine. A true creative is willing to fail, and acknowledge that not every idea is a good one. This is something that comes easily to us as children, before social pressures stifle our ever-brewing mass of ideas.

We’re also looking for tenacity. A creative will approach a problem from multiple angles. Often, it’s not the end result that holds the value, but the process. Just look at the scientific process: it’s a series of experiments with multiple outcomes, with each offering its own benefit.

Without making mistakes, we wouldn’t have the discoveries we have today – take penicillin, for example. In business, we need to stop fearing mistakes and learn to embrace the value of the creative process. Machines are not built to make mistakes.

Can creativity be learned?

Nobody can teach creativity in a classroom. In fact, from infancy we’re discouraged from making mistakes and taught to pass exams instead. This can pose a challenge to natural ‘left-brained’ thinkers, as we’re most open to new ideas when we’re children.

It is possible, but it takes practice. Think of creativity like meditation – you need to practise daily to achieve your full potential. One method is to think of a new subject matter every day, and three ideas around it. Practise this enough and the ideas will begin to improve.

What does the future hold for creatives?

It’s easy to feel threatened by exponential tech development. We need to approach it with an open mind, not just as employees, but as hirers.

Over the next 10 to 15 years, business owners will begin to appreciate the true problem-solving capabilities of creatives. Paired with practical skills, like coding, creatives can augment a skill set that adds true value. This is crucial for skills that are always changing: computers simply can’t adapt like we can.

That’s why we must always make room for people and tech, no matter what size the business. Creatives should not feel threatened by machines, and managers should not undervalue ideation.

Technology might be able to tell us the impact of a story. Only humans can truly tell it.


Katie Thompson

Katie Lingo


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