And there was a bit of a surprise that at the very top of the list for a second year was: creativity.
Technically, creativity is the most in-demand soft skill in the world, while Blockchain is the top hard skill. Hard skills, are those which apply to what people are working on (I.e. Blockchain) and only apply to that section of the workforce and doesn’t have the staying power a soft skill has.
Conversely, learning how to think more creatively will benefit you the rest of your career. And, macroeconomic trends suggest creativity will only become more important moving forward. Hence, it’s no stretch to say creativity is the single-most important skill in the world for all business professionals today to master. Why?
Let’s start with the what.
What it Means to be Creative: The Ability to Solve Problems with Relevance and Novelty
When many people think of creativity, they think of artists, graphic designers, writers, painters, etc.
But that’s not what it means to be creative, because creativity doesn’t mean artistry. Yes, an artist could be creative, but so could a software engineer, a mathematician, a salesperson or a CEO.
What does it actually mean to be creative? LinkedIn Learning Instructor Stefan Mumaw, who has authored six books on creativity, has this definition: “Creativity is problem-solving with relevance and novelty.”
Let’s break that definition down into its two parts:
- Relevancy: Relevancy means actually solving the problem. As in, the degree by which a problem is solved, as often we are not solving the problem itself.
- Novelty: Novelty is harder to judge, but it’s when you are able to solve a problem in an original way. A way that isn’t what’s expected or has been done before.
Putting it together, creativity is really just solving problems in original ways.
Mumaw also believes creativity isn’t strictly innate. Yes, like anything, some people are naturally more creative than others. But, by putting the time in, you can learn how to be more creative.
“Creativity is a skill and any skill that you can undertake, the byproduct to it being a skill, is that you can get better at it,” Mumaw said in his course, Creativity Bootcamp. “And we’ve never really thought of creativity as being something that we can get better at. But you can.”
Why Creativity Is So Important Today: Process-Driven Jobs Are Going Away
Using that definition of what creativity is, why is it the most important skill for professionals today?
It really comes down to commoditisation. Today, basically anything that can be automated has been automated or soon will be automated, which cuts down on a lot of process-orientated tasks.
Use the example of the news industry. In the old days of newspapers, it took teams of people to set the layout of the paper, create the printing press, print the paper and then deliver it to subscribers. Today, with most news dispersed electronically, virtually all of that process-driven work is automated.
What’s left? Journalists who can tell news stories that cut through the noise and connect with people. That takes creativity; i.e. a relevant and novel solution – what are the stories that aren’t being told already that people want to hear?
That same phenomenon is happening across every industry and every function. Software companies don’t just want someone who can write code, they want someone who can dream up new softwares to fix old problems. Companies don’t want business analysts who just crunch numbers; they want analysts who can think of creative solutions based off what the numbers are telling them.
What This All Means to You: There’s No Better Investment You Can Make Today Than Strengthening Your Creative Skills
2020 has been a year of change as people adapted to new ways of working or saw their employment circumstances change due to the global pandemic. Many have invested time developing new skills to help get them through, particularly soft skills which are highly valued by companies today and have grown in importance in recent years. Skills like creativity are in high demand. Learning new skills or developing existing ones can help people be great at their job today, and open doors to new opportunities in the future. It can also help people improve their confidence which is particularly beneficial to anyone who has been out of the workplace for a while.
Are you looking to strengthen your creativity skills? These LinkedIn Learning courses can help:
- Creativity Bootcamp with Stefan Mumaw
- Creative Exercises to Spark Original Thinking with Amy Wynne
- Banish Your Inner Critic to Unleash Creativity with Denise Jacobs
Written for OEB20 by Nicola M. Doherty, LinkedIn Learning