As a learning and development professional in a tech field, you are affected every day by the demands of rapid change. To keep pace, workers at every level must be willing to adapt and learn continually. Alvin Toffler, futurist and author of the 1970 seminal book Futur Shock, went so far as to say that being unable to learn, unlearn and relearn would be the 21st century equivalent of being illiterate.
To really understand what that means, let’s try this simple exercise. Go ahead and fold your arms. Now fold them the opposite way. Most people notice a big difference in comfort, and you could say that the latter is what change feels like. In the 20th century, you could fold your arms one way for your entire career. Today, we are asked to fold, unfold and refold in a new way many times throughout our careers.
Someone who can change back and forth between arm positions might be considered flexible and adaptable. While this is critically important, it still might not be enough to bring job security in today’s fast-changing industries. To gain a competitive advantage individuals must regularly “go beyond the playbook”, often improvising with limited resources and being capable of inventing new arm positions that better suit new tasks. This is change at another level – the level of creativity and innovation.
Creativity is the ability to see new opportunities, to produce original ideas, to flexibly adapt to changing situations, and to apply one’s imagination to solve complex problems. While not everyone may have such a concrete definition, the fact remains that in report after report, creativity is shown to be rising in value among workplace skills. Most notably, the World Economic Forum published a report in 2016 showing that creativity had moved from a tenth place ranking in 2015 to the third most important work-related skill for 2020. And what is the most important skill for the workplace in 2020? Complex problem solving, a skill we would argue is enhanced by effective creative thinking.