The value of creativity

Last year I was invited by Innovation Booster to do a presentation about the value of creativity at the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven and I’d like to elaborate on the subject in this post. I touched on a variety of subjects in my presentation and I will explain them all here. The value of quantitative labour versus qualitative labour; the risk of falling prey to automation; the XY theory by McGregor; the millennial definition of success and the happiness ladder. I’ll include my presentation too!

Killer whales

As a child I was fascinated by the movie ‘Free Willy’ and I became a huge fan of orcas. When given free drawing assignment at primary school I immediately went to draw some orcas and the classmate sitting next to noticed. He gave me a nudge and said: "Couldn’t you draw me one of those orcas?” "Of course" I said. "I see that you have some candy, I’ll do it for some of that.” Within moments half my class stood lined up in front of me to get a drawing.

The reason I tell this story is because I still do this. I’ve worked as a freelance presentation designer for the past 2,5 years now. This technically means I’m still drawing pictures for people who give me candy, sort of. Sometimes you find things you’re passionate about early on in life. These early talents usually expose whether you’re a ‘left brainer’ or a ‘right brainer’ (I know this distinction is already debunked by science, but for argument’s sake I’ll keep using it). 

Left brain/Right brain

A left brainer would typically be considered more of a numbers person, whereas a right brainer would be a creative spirit. This isn’t to say that one would exclude the other, only that you have more talent for one of the other. I’d argue that the people on the quantitative side of the spectrum are more at risk of falling prey to automation. It’s just what computers are typically good at and are able to excel at in a rate that exceeds human capacity.

That’s where I think one of the values of creativity comes up. Even though creative jobs aren’t safe from automation, because of the increased complexity of aesthetics and appreciation, people in creative sectors are safe for at least a wee bit longer. 

If we look at the ages of civilisation throughout history, this statement for me is confirmed. I’ll list the ages we’ve been through and the workers they’ve thrived on here:

  1. Agricultural age (farmers)
  2. Industrial age (factory workers)
  3. Information age (knowledge workers)
  4. Conceptual age (creators and empathizers)

We are now living in an age where creativity is becoming more important than ever. The problem is that being creative is a rare skill, or I'd rather say staying creative is. I deeply believe that EVERYONE is born with creative skills. Unfortunately a lot of people get educated out of it. This is because we still have our educational institutes structured the same way as was the case in the industrial age. Luckily change is happening, but I still see it as the cause of the major discrepancy between the skills that one learns in school and actual market demand. 

So how can you become creative?

I am convinced you can find your creativity by finding your passion. If you are REALLY enthusiastic about your craft or skill, you try to get to know EVERYTHING about it. You get to know your craft in and out. You become an expert. At that point you might even start to see completely different applications.

This, for me, is creativity.