The Future is Creative

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We know that many jobs of yesteryear, and even some of yesterday, are changing drastically. And we know the culprit, to a large degree, is advancing technology.

Whether its robots, artificial intelligence or automation, technology is changing how humans work. And, while some jobs we humans hold today may be doomed to disappear in the not-too-distant future, history has taught us this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, it may, in the long run, even be a good thing.

It tells us that the future of work has the opportunity to become increasingly... creative.

An article from Steelcase 360 magazine titled Man, Machine and Creativity tells, we learn that as industries and occupations embraced the use of computers in the 80s, 90s and 2000s, employment actually grew – not shrank. When computers were suddenly able to eliminate the repetitive, manual labor humans once held, humans were then able to focus on the work machines can’t do – the creative work generated by the human mind.

So, here’s what we know. Currently, according to the McKinsey Global Institute Analysis, 50 percent of all activities the world’s workforce are paid to complete - physical, human activities - could be automated using today’s technologies. A scary statistic on its own, to be sure. In the United States, alone, the UK Economic Report predicts 38 percent of all jobs will be impacted by technology in some form over the next 15 years.

In its annual CEO Survey, PwC Global asked nearly 1,400 CEOs from across the world to weigh in on the trends reshaping business and society today. This year’s survey returned some interesting results.

When asked about the skills their workforces lacked the most, 77 percent said their employees lacked creativity and innovation and that key skill shortages could impair their company’s growth into the future. On the flip side, 52 percent said the skills they consider most important cannot be replicated by machines, a promising statistic.

Conversely, the 2017 Steelcase Creativity and the Future of Work Survey found that 77 percent of workers believe creativity will be a critical job skill in the future. However, only 40 percent of workers said their company culture encourages creative work and behavior.

It’s true our technological future will allow humans to be more creative and work together to solve complex problems, but we need the skills, environment and mindset to make that shift. Our innate creativity is becoming more critical to our everyday work, and our workplace must evolve to meet those needs.

In an exciting shift, Steelcase and Microsoft have partnered to begin thinking about the challenges organizations and people face as they try to engage in more creative work and the role space and technology play in supporting this work.

To help organizations accelerate the shift toward more creative work, Steelcase and Microsoft co-developed Creative Spaces, an interdependent ecosystem of spaces and technologies designed for the diverse modes of creative work, such as uninterrupted individual focus, developing ideas in a pair, generating solutions as a group, converging around ideas and allowing time for diffused thinking – permitting the mind to wander.

Creative Spaces are places that build trust, inspire new ways of thinking and fuel experimentation. This initial collection of thoughtfully curated destinations brings together design and materiality without compromising performance to enable creative work and are being applied to workplaces now.

We live in a time when drastic changes are happening in the workplace. It’s no longer enough to simply buy furniture and technology in silos. People, place and technology must now merge with a strategic workplace vision to allow for creativity, flexibility and enhanced productivity.

So, company leaders must ask themselves, "Is the future of my organization’s work creative?" The answer is more than likely, "yes." Let’s do something about it.

Mary Beth Oakes is chief executive officer of Business Furniture LLC.

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