Building a creative workforce is the winning edge in the age of technological disruption

Create conditions for creative thinkers to thrive, says Johnson Wong.

The future is here. The nature of work across virtually every industry is being affected by the exponential growth of technological disruptions in the gig economy. Today, these tech-related disruptors include automation, Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are gaining traction in adoption rates by organisations.

Several research studies have indicated 40% of the jobs can be taken over by robots. When was the last time you entered a bank, bought a ticket from a human, or browsed through bins of music at a shop? These everyday tasks are increasingly performed and delivered almost instantaneously by machines.

What does this mean to you and your organisation?

If we are to keep pace with the rapid evolution of the workplace, we must constantly adapt skills requirements. Although there may be a cause for concern for some businesses, it is also true that there are routine tasks we are glad that automation could lend a hand.

In the era of technological disruptions, the one skill that is most valuable will be creative thinking

We could use a clever bot could process routine emails, deal with transactions, and perhaps a little laundry on the side. Offloading administrative ‘work’ frees up time for people to delve into other more important and higher value tasks. We can make use of this recoup time to learn to be more adaptive in our approach and increase our creative capacity.

Why a creative workforce presents an edge over tech-disruptors

Innovation becomes an expected norm for organisations to thrive. Automation and AI are often seen as enablers for organisations to optimise their business or increase their market share, but these alone may not be sufficient to bring about innovation.

At present, there remains no absolute proof that AI that has demonstrated an ability to abstractly solve tasks and coming up with an entirely novel invention. Only humans have the ability to imagine something that has not been seen before.

Hence, creativity is an integral part of innovation to be a reality. For any ground-breaking innovation to occur, it usually takes many creative leaps that built off one another to get there. Organisations need to put in place resources and structures in developing 21st-century creative leaders and workforce as one of the top priorities in their business strategy.

Building conditions for creative thinkers to thrive

Organisation leaders can apply the following three tips in building conditions for creative thinkers to succeed.

Tip #1: Leaders can invest time and resources to develop employees’ creative capacity

Leaders can engage their employees to strengthen their creative thinking muscles by:

  • Increasing their ability to focus. Engage them in sprints and deep-dive activities to train their focus in achieving a specific goal.
  • Adopting a dose of positive inquisitiveness. Leaders can provide a safe platform for employees to practice being curious. Inspiration is crucial to the development of new ideas, and that comes from insights derived from looking out into the world. Such practices enable individuals and groups to improve their creative capacity.
  • Improving employees’ adaptability. Getting employees to collaborate in a different field or work with an external partner. The leader needs to provide sufficient support through spending time with employees to regularly communicate and receive feedback about their progress on such collaboration.

Tip #2: Put in place platforms for creative thinking

Introduce ‘creative thinking hackathons’ for employees to learn how to quickly take an idea that they have and build a prototype or product to demonstrate the feasibility of their idea. An alternative approach is to organise creative learning circles that promote the generation of ideas and practices that have flourished and reinvent new ways of work or possible leads to innovation.

Tip #3: Enhance existing motivation mechanisms

Leaders should actively recognise employees’ creative contributions and praise them. Giving recognition produces a positive impact on employees’ motivation. By leveraging creative thinking tools and technology to integrate gamification of work empowers employees to contribute to organisational growth and innovation.

The urgency to develop creative thinkers at the workplace

There is an urgency to cultivate this creative thinking culture and groom creative thinkers at work. Presently, machines are becoming capable of exploration and some aspects of creativity, and they will continue to push the boundaries in achieving ‘synthetic or artificial creativity’ that may significantly impact across industries.

Leaders must act fast to inculcate their workforce on the value of creative thinking in the organisation amidst the constant technological disruptions.

The takeaway

In the era of technological disruptions, the one skill that is most valuable will be creative thinking – the ability to imagine, generate and develop inventive and original solutions. Organisations need to invest time and resources in building conditions to develop creative thinkers to increase the chances of innovations leapfrogging the competitions.

Creative thinking at work is here to stay, indefinitely.


About the author

Johnson Wong is a learning strategist and director of Empower Training and Consultancy Pte Ltd., where he provides services for clients in learning design, learning technology solutions (e-courses) and training advisory. 




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