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Blog // Thoughts
August 27, 2015

Why Creativity Matters

Why did I choose to write about creativity for my first book? It’s a good question; one I’ve been asked often over the last year. All my life I’ve wanted to be an author. I guess most people do. In my teens I wrote complicated, wordy science-fiction, then in my twenties I started to fix […]

Why did I choose to write about creativity for my first book? It’s a good question; one I’ve been asked often over the last year.

All my life I’ve wanted to be an author. I guess most people do. In my teens I wrote complicated, wordy science-fiction, then in my twenties I started to fix my gaze on academic non-fiction, theology, ethics, cultural studies. Even after I left academia, I kept writing, the dream didn’t die.

Creativity felt like the obvious choice. There’s a lot of reasons to write about it. But one reason, perhaps more than any other, stood out. Robots.

Yes, that’s right, all the way through the writing of No Missing Tools, I was thinking about robots. Let me explain.

The Changing Shape Of The Workplace

There was an article in the news this week, claiming that nearly 60% of Australian university students are studying for jobs that will not exist in the future, because those functions will have been replaced by robots. Scaremongering journalism aside, that far-fetched claim looks a little more realistic if we consider what has happened to the workplace over the last 30-40 years.

Offices once had massive typing pools, where letters, memos, invoices and other documents were typed out, but now everyone is expected to do their own email, spreadsheets, letters and presentations. When it comes to the later, even in the early nineties, it was still common to have specialists “desktop publish” some correspondence and presentations were sent out for expensive specialist graphic artwork and preparation on actual film slides, for big events. As software has become more powerful more and more processes have been automated and workers at all levels of seniority, are expected to manage for themselves everything from expenses, to travel booking, and an array of other small chores.

And, that’s before we get into the way globalisation has effected the modern workplace, with many jobs being moved away to countries were trained, qualified workers are paid less. At first, a lot of these jobs were manufacturing jobs, then came a rush to move administrative, accounting and financial work, and in more recent years, higher skilled scientific, journalistic, research, and management roles have also shifted geographically.

Creativity And Making A Living

There are very few areas of work that haven’t been radically changed by these forces and employers of all sorts are under constant pressure to deliver more with fewer staff. We are seeing a steady decline in the number of low skilled jobs available as robots increasingly do everything from assemble our cars to clean our homes and stack our shelves. And, there’s less and less job security in high skilled professions. Perhaps the popularity of hipsters is a natural reaction to these social and market forces.

While hipsterism often comes in for criticism, the trend towards local, artisanal, handmade, old technology, high-touch oriented commerce and consumerism is a natural and perhaps healthy reaction against both the effects of the globalised employment market and also the pressures of the shrinking modern workplace, by trying to place value on work, provenance and the “human” touch.

So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that within this movement, creativity, along with authenticity and uniqueness, is so highly prized. Creativity is that hard to codify, elusive and somewhat mysterious thing people bring to their work when they have to the opportunity to do the work they love. Creativity is us at our best, at our most valuable, at our most human. Creativity is our best response to the robotification of the workplace.

Creativity and Living Well

Let’s take a step back from work for a moment and think about how we want to live our lives as a whole. We long to give more of ourselves to our hobbies, raising our kids, playing sports, cooking food, and other activities that go better when we feel in touch with our creativity. We even want to engage our creativity in the choice of holiday destinations and the experiences we have when we visit far away places.

Creativity has become synonymous with living well and managing our life effectively. We prize creativity in the home, whether it’s a decor that sparks and fuels the feeling of being alive, or innovative products or approaches to common household problems, like removing stains or remembering where you left your keys. We pour over blogs and websites full of pictures of this kind of domestic creativity in action.

So, whether it’s living well, or making a living, creativity is an increasingly essential part of the life we want today.

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