The old is giving way to the new. Our world is being disrupted by developments ranging from globalisation to new technologies and climate change. We are being challenged to be more innovative than ever in order to survive and thrive. But what type of innovation should we be seeking as we approach what is being called the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
Until recently, innovation has been associated with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, the so-called STEM disciplines. You would not find many examples of creativity in innovation been showcased. Well not in the popular technical publications glorifying faster processing speeds.
Professionals in these disciplines have been trained to think analytically and the innovations they have brought into our world have been based mainly on improvements to their technologies. They have tended to work within the box, but in a fast-changing world the need to think outside of the box by developing multifaceted skills is becoming imperative.
Welcome to the Rise of the creative class
In 2002 Richard Florida published his well researched book “The Rise of the Creative Class” where he argues that creativity is critical to unlock economic growth in cities.
Florida manages to succinctly capture the value of the new creative class and the essence of human capital and the importance of having a creative ethos. He says that the best educated and most
creative members of society want to live in diverse, culturally rich places that encourage spaces for people to be themselves.
So in the new age town engineers and planners need to have deep empathy for their citizens. However when you visit most traditional universities you will see empathy, ethics and citizenship been taught in the arts and humanities fields.
So how do we get people who have been trained to think analytically to embrace empathy and creativity?
The Government of Finland has recently launched their “Experimentation Accelerator” to help promote this way of thinking amongst their civil servants. It’s described as “a network-based self-organising platform for innovative public servants to develop cross-sectoral solutions through co-creation, mutual learning and sparring from inspiring innovation champions.”
Welcome to STEAM
STEM is now becoming STEAM, with the “A” in the new acronym represented by Art and Design. These are the critical creative elements that we need to embed in our thinking in order to meet our new challenges. Art and Design and the creativity they bring to us are poised to transform our economy in the 21st century just as science and technology did in the last century.
The STEAM age is slowly but surely taking shape in different forms in many parts of the world, with many agencies exploring how creative and innovative solutions and sustainable design can help benefit society at large.
Using photography to drive empathy
We see traditional STEM companies embedding STEAM into their strategy to make them future-ready. I was privileged to be given the opportunity to pilot sucha project between a large global engineering consulting practice and a photographer based in South Africa.
The photographer, Yasser Booley, was embarking on a long distance journey from Cape Town, South Africa to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania using only public transport.
The Afrikanist in Motion project captured the unique transport challenges that confront the majority of people in Africa. It provides a glimpse into the day-to-day lives of public transport commuters, offering valuable insights to help inform better infrastructure design and transport planning and provide relevant solutions tailored to the African context.
The objective of an initiative such as this was to transform the company’s projects from being technical-driven to becoming people- and community-driven. This is far removed from the traditional public participation process in which a project is first designed and then presented to communities for approval. It starts creating a culture of putting yourself in the shoes of the end user before drawing the first line on the page.
Are you ready to embrace creativity?
Creativity is a fundamental building block of innovation. When you fuse the creative and technical worlds, the pay-off is a sweet spot where innovation can flourish.
How open is your organization to creativity?
Does your company culture encourage and embrace creativity?
Many people tell me: “Im not creative”. This is not true. You just need to rediscover the four-year old in you.
Many CEOs tell me “I’m not creative.” To them my response is: “If you cannot dance then create the space for people to dance.”
So who will become the Da Vinci of the fourth industrial revolution?
Keen to hear your comments below.