LinkedIn recently analyzed 50,000 professional skills employers search for to discover the most in-demand job skills for 2019. Their research showed that the number-one soft skill employers seek most in candidates this year is creativity. In fact, even when analyzing soft and hard skills, creativity still came in at number two on the list (cloud computing took home first place overall – no surprise to anyone who works at Arkadin!) But cloud computing is a hard skill and only applies to a relatively small portion of the workforce.
Creativity is “the single most important skill in the world for all business today to master”, says LinkedIn of their results. Mark Cuban, one of America’s most successful businessmen and investors, agrees. In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Cuban said he worries that many jobs people consider to be safe simply won’t exist in a few years due to automation, and being able to think creatively will be key to survival.
Cuban added, “I personally think there’s going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than there were for programming”.
But what if you’re not a creative person?
It’s crucial to understand that you don’t have to be a painter or graphic designer or novelist to be creative. Creativity isn’t only about excelling in artistic endeavors: it’s also about being able to solve problems with relevance and innovative thinking.
Stefan Mumaw, Creative Director of a Kansas-based ad agency and author of five books on creativity, insists: “Creativity is not an external force or a rare skill; it’s a habit that can be learned and exercised every day”. Mumaw’s courses challenge preconceived notions about creativity to help people generate better ideas faster. Put simply, he teaches how to think creatively.
Creative thinking brings fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, solutions to problems. It can help teams and organizations move in more productive directions. For these and other reasons, this mental agility we call creativity is extremely valuable to companies today.
What are some creative thinking techniques?
Brainstorming: We all know about this one. It’s when a group of people toss out ideas on a topic without regard to how practical they may be. The goal is to come up with an innovative solution that might not occur otherwise. While many of the ideas generated may not be feasible, by setting aside practical constraints and allowing people to speak freely, the end result is often an idea that can be made into a workable solution.
“What if” questions: For example, if you ask “What if we perform process XYZ in the opposite manner of how we currently do it?”, or “What if we eliminate step 5 from the process?”, it might lead to an improvement in productivity or growth. “What if” questions can be the source of big ideas.
Role-playing: Role-playing can give you a different perspective that can lead to new ideas. Here’s a simple example if you’re in sales: a role-playing session where you pretend to be the customer can give you a much better understanding of what your customer is thinking during your presentations. This can help you anticipate common objections your customers may have and develop a plan to overcome them.
Provocation: This is a process where you intentionally reject a truism to help stimulate creative thought. For instance, you might postulate that getting rid of all of your company’s computers will improve productivity. While you have no intention of getting rid of your computers, the concept can stimulate creative thinking so that you and your team come up with ideas that really do improve productivity and processes.
How can creativity be enhanced?
Be observant. People who think creatively notice details by using all of their senses. What others might see as circumstances beyond their control, they see as possibilities. Whenever you can, watch those around you and be curious about their lives. You’ll come up with some of your most creative ideas by observing others.
Keep an open mind. Don’t be quick to judge. When you encounter new ideas, listen to them and think them through. Even if you’re not sold on a given idea, put it aside for a while and circle back later. When you think about it again, it’ll feel more familiar. That familiarity will begin opening your mind.
Daydream. Take time every day to let your mind wander. Research shows that daydreaming stimulates can bring connections within your brain and provide insights that you may not have considered.
Take risks. Your ideas might fail. But the idea of failure isn’t negative to a person who thinks creatively; on the contrary, with every failure comes a new insight. Set your imagination free to come up with a new idea and then put it out there for all to see. The worst that can happen is your idea gets shot down; the best is that you’ll find a great new solution no one else has ever thought of.
A strong ability to think creatively will serve you every day, all throughout your career. Make improving it a priority for 2019.