Those of us within creative industries have been given serious food for thought about how and why creativity is the most valuable skill moving into a technological-based future.

Russel Howcroft is Partner and Chief Creative Officer at PwC, Chair of the Australian Film Television and Radio School, and a cast member of ABC’s The Gruen Transfer. Even within the man’s job title we see the blending of corporate, creativity, and education in a way that industries need to me more conscious.

Within a few months of taking up his role at PwC, Mr Howcroft launched an internal newspaper. In a time when media is lamenting ‘the death of print’, this forward-executive executive is bringing a renaissance of old media. While PwC already has a significant digital media presence, Mr Howcroft sees value in using the newspaper – named The Press – as a marketing tool in a similar fashion to brands like Broadsheet and Mr Porter.

In a LinkedIn post from early this year, Mr Howcroft noted the country’s need to establish a Creativity Commission particularly as the glory days of Australia’s mining boom peter out. “We have to move up the value chain, and to do that, we need to find ways to better harness our human assets,” he wrote. “Creativity can, and should, be one of our most significant drivers of future growth and competitiveness, but many still think creativity belongs in the sandpit and not on the spreadsheet.”

According to Mr Howcroft, Australia needs to put creativity’s power at the front and centre of its economy. “In the new economy, creativity is a key driver of commercial competitiveness and edge,” he wrote. “It is core to the way we develop and support ideas, find commercial opportunities, create business models and build relationships with consumers across the whole economy.”

Mr Howcroft said the primary functions of the Creativity Commission is to – support the growth of the creative economy; build creative capacities and ideas to help inform policy and industry; recognise community interests and use creativity to facilitate better national outcomes; and support the development of creative and internationally competitive Australian businesses.

Working within a creative agency, I cannot help but applaud this call to action. From personal experience, school rarely encouraged creativity, nor did university, and very few of my writing roles in the past did so either. Each of these steps in education/career progression was filled with lessons about following protocol and understanding expectations.

Industry and education are more about harnessing skills and obedience rather than fostering creative thinking. This is antithetical to progress and almost guarantees stagnancy since creativity has fuelled most of the technological development we’ve seen since the industrial age. It’s no coincidence a significant number of creative visionaries dropped out of university – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Julian Assange, and Kanye West.

With the frightening possibility of job loss due to artificial intelligence, creativity has never been more valued as a skill. And even creative jobs are under threat with music app Endel signing a record deal with Warner Music to create 20 albums in 2019. Artificial intelligence means an algorithm is now a major-label musician, so no creative role is entirely safe from automation.

A national Creativity Commission will help safeguard creative roles from artificial intelligence while encouraging more creative thinking across education and industry. Creative thinking can help lead to more creative solutions in terms of how people work and life.



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