Tuning into the Creative Class

As an economics major, with a background in business, organization development and culture transformation, I’m someone who appreciates art history just as much as her technology gadgets. Lately, my podcast and reading focus has been around blending those two seemingly different interests, namely technology, automation and its impact on work and culture. There is growing evidence surrounding the fast-paced nature of automation and technology and how it is rapidly changing our cultural and professional norms, nourishing the challenges we face with the economic wealth divide.

It’s a basic formula and cycle: technology drives speed and is the fuel for the engine of our future, accelerating the need for advanced skills and more innovation. This, in turn, requires people and places to evolve not only to consume the technology but at the same time dig deeper to engage in multi-dimensional thinking and problem solving for the next evolution. All this in a world designed to do it for us at the touch of a search button.

This ongoing cycle means that creative thinking is an essential component of our everyday work and play. As children, we are encouraged to be creative, yet as adults in our professional lives, we often overlook or fail to acknowledge the need for ongoing creative development. Without the appreciation and time to experience creative moments and growth, even those that once flourished will begin to wither and die, being outpaced by others.

Instead of capitalizing on our inner creativity or the innate creativity of others around us, we seek to acquire and retain a constrained labor pool that we have incorrectly identified as a small class of creative talent. This escalates the demand, salary requirements and expectations of this narrow group of those with a defined creative role, raising the stakes to support this activity even higher.

This strategy is only effective if you want to pay explosive labor rates and enjoy the ongoing talent scavenger hunt and survival course. This strategy also continues to widen the growing economic, wage, and skill divide, fueling the battle for a narrow definition of talent. This leaves others behind, damaging individuals and communities for decades to come.

While we engage in the hunt and figure out how to afford them, some of the most creative minds and incubators of creative expression tend to be overlooked and underfunded in workplaces, educational intuitions and in our own community.

Now seems like a good time for us to reflect and rethink the cultural, technological and economic ethos that exists today, starting by asking if we are truly embracing and harnessing the diverse and available talent of the entire Creative Class.

The Creative Class doesn’t just include those high-demand engineers, technologists, scientists or architects. It includes talented artists, musicians, writers, dancers, designers, stage actors and yes even everyday workers like you and me when given the encouragement and ability to utilize and exercise our inner creative outlets.

This led me to think of a few ways we all can leverage the Creative Class surrounding us.

  • We must find necessary balance of work processes, infrastructure and creative expression.
  • We need to truly appreciate, inspire and reward creative problem solving, idea generation and abstractive thinking, just like we do revenue generation achievements.
  • Instead of boxing in knowledge, skills and abilities, we should attempt to expand them by broadening our classification of creative work, workers and where these activities take place in everyday life.
  • Identify where creative work takes place and where creative workers tend to live, work and play. Then mirror some of those positive environmental conditions.
  • While we offer and appreciate workplace perks like free coffee, flexible work arrangements, activity trackers and flu shots, we should also fund more educational opportunities and non-traditional means to inspire and advance creative expression, exploration and mindfulness.
  • Incubate more internal think tanks and idea pitching contests. Offer a variety of artistic or creativity-infused programs in our workplaces and communities.
  • Design our homes, businesses and workplaces to be more expressive, creative and multidimensional by strategically utilizing artwork and color, and investing in more collaborative activity generating and exploring spaces and engagement opportunities.
  • Instead of cutting funding, we should invest and support art programs in schools, workplaces, public spaces, as well as economic and community development initiatives.

What if we valued art as much as we do technology, science and math? Imagine if we all made a conscious effort to bring artwork into homes and workplaces, if we took those slow art viewing and exploring moments. Would this reinforce through action the value art brings and support it as a viable career and business ally?

While these tips may not be enough to change the world, they may change your experiences, workplace, career, community and the lives of others.

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