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December 17, 2018

How to look at art: Competitive business invests in creativity of workforce

Competitive business invests in creativity of the workforce
Competitive business invests in creativity of the workforce

In the 21st century, growth and prosperity are driven by creativity and innovation. According to the World Economic Forum, “around 85 per cent of productivity gains are related to investments in innovation.” Creative human capital is, therefore, critical to a nation’s success. Strengthening the creativity of workforce has become a major concern around the world.

Although training for creativity must begin in schools, the responsibility is not schools’ alone. Business — whether traditional or new — has to invest in personnel’s creativity. Companies cannot be the consumers of ‘ready-made’ human capital anymore. If they wish to increase their productivity and competitiveness, they must become the key contributors of enhancing staff’s ability to create new value (innovation).

Businesses, more than anyone, need creative people who are better prepared for an increasingly complex work environment. ‘Creative people know how to think outside the paradigm, to kickstart a new idea, to get a job done better,’ says GlaxoSmithKline CEO Annette Byrd. Creativity is now a fundamental skill demanded by employers, and ‘the number one practice for improving innovation within companies.’

Yet in many regions, training for creativity remains elusive due to lack of collaboration between the business and education sectors. This has consequences: 75 per cent of Africa-based chief executives say the lack of creative talent threatens their companies’ growth and even survival (Ernst &Young and PwC).

The 2016 Human Capital Report of the World Economic Forum states that “countries in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa might have a remaining window of opportunity of at most 10 years before technology permanently closes the door on the strategies” that develop the skills demanded by the 21st century.

The Education ministry is trying to introduce creativity in the new school curriculum. The effort calls for strong business-education partnership. For business, this is a long-term investment in both employees and customers, for schools are a source of expertise and empowerment. For the society, this would alter the educational lanscpape and meet its needs.

Forming a ‘business-school creativity working group’ in Kenya could be a start. Such a group would engage business leaders and educators in a dialogue on how to enhance the creativity of the current and future workforce. They could begin by aligning their perspectives on four critical issues.

First is creativity and innovation skill-set definition. Educators define creativity as the ability to solve problems. Business sees ‘problem-solving’ as a fundamental skill for employees and do not define it as ‘creativity’.

Secondly, understanding the reasons why creativity and innovation are of increasing importance in a workplace.

Thirdly, employers say that ‘art studies’ are the most significant indicators of potential creative worker. In Kenyan schools, art practices that encourage creativity are limited.

Fourthly, how to assess creativity. Schools’ and businesses’ assessment of the creativity skill-set of new workforce entrants is currently strongly misaligned.

Organisations such as the MASK School for Creativity and Innovation (MASK) are well placed for such pilots. Since 2007, MASK has successfully implemented its creativity training in more than 20 Kenyan schools.

Business leaders should understand the magnitude of the change underway and prioritise investing in the creativity of the current and future workforce.

Alla Tkachuk founded Mobile Art School in Kenya. Become ‘Kenya Patron of the Arts’, contact Alla for more information on [email protected]

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