4 creative skills that will be useful forever

Kieran Flanagan and Dan Gregory

Kieran Flanagan and Dan Gregory are experts in leadership communication and strategic insights. They are the strategic and creative team behind the most successful new product launch in Australian history, have helped entrepreneurs build internationally successful businesses and worked with some of the world's most influential organisations. They work as speakers, trainers and are the co-authors of Forever Skills: The 12 skills to future proof yourself, your team and your kids. Find out more at

In recent times, the clarion call from futurists, economists, marketers, educators and leaders the world over is one of slight panic, “The world is changing and you’re not ready for it.” And of course, they make a very good point.

The world is indeed changing at an accelerating pace. But is that in fact cause for panic? And what, if anything, might we be able to do to ready ourselves for it?

Our observation is that we tend to focus only on one sphere of change - What is changing. However, in order to be more fully prepared for change, we ought to also consider change’s other spheres - What needs changing and what is unchanging. This final sphere of change aligns itself roughly with Dr Stephen Covey’s ‘Not urgent but important’ quadrant in his now famous priority matrix and likewise, aides us in better preparing for change without the associated sense of panic.

So as marketers trying to keep up with algorithms that predict purchasing behaviour, robots that have now passed the Turing test for convincing customers of their ‘humanity’ and artificial intelligence (AI) that seems to know what we’re thinking before we’re consciously aware of it ourselves, how can we remain relevant. More than that, how can we be potent?

The ‘forever skills’ we identified clustered around three key areas: Communication, Control and Creativity. It is creativity we will focus on here in this article. So what makes up Creativity’s Forever Skills?

1. An ability to generate insights

Data isn’t an answer, it’s input. There’s quite a difference between jumping off a one-metre high wall 100 times, and jumping off a 100-metre high wall once. Both involve traversing a vertical distance of 100 metres by jumping off a wall but only one will earn you a place in the Darwin Awards. Insight requires an ability to create connections where there were none and to transform information into meaning.

2. A capacity to convert raw materials into new formats

Conversion has always been a powerful tool of creativity, it’s just the nature of raw materials that have changed. Timber and fossil fuels have simply been replaced with resources such as information and time.

3. Solving problems in ways not seen before

Creativity is often seen as a talent, an ability to draw or play music. In fact, it is an ability to solve problems in new ways.

4. A sense of personal agility

This involves being able to transition from one context to another with ease and resilience. Resilience is, in essence, a creative skill. Ultimately, it is the ability to generate a new possibility as others close down.

Of course, some creative skills can be performed by machines, especially when they involve pattern recognition and duplication of output. Perhaps the most important of these skills lies in the human ability to connect the seemingly unrelated and generate seemingly spontaneous inspiration.

Edward de Bono famously talked about linear and lateral thinkers. We prefer the terms ‘Linkers’ and ‘Leapers’. Linkers create through connections, often linking future projects to past reference points making the new seem familiar. Machines can do this too.

However, Leapers have an ability to generate random ideas and then make sense of them. The spontaneity and lack of logic makes this hard to replicate. And in fact, this is perhaps the most useful filter for which skills will remain evergreen - if it can be replicated, it will be automated.

And why not, let’s leave the mundane work to the machines and spend a little more time utilising the higher functions of our extraordinary brains.

Tags: creativity, leadership

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