Free-thinkers required

Robinson argues that for firms to compete on the world stage, employers and
educators need to think more broadly about education and creativity

change is moving faster than ever. Companies urgently need people who can generate
ideas for new products and services and who can adapt to changing markets.

they are finding it increasingly difficult to attract and retain such people.
The McKinsey Quarterly has called this the “war for talent”, but why is there
such a gap between the supply and demand for creative people? What’s going

of the biggest problems is education. For generations we have wasted the
creative resources that are now vital for personal fulfilment and economic
success. The result is that training professionals are now finding themselves
in the frontline of the war for talent.  

technologies are transforming the nature of work and the skills that are needed
to succeed. There is an unprecedented demand for creative abilities. Education
is meant to promote these abilities. But it doesn’t. The main reason is the
preoccupation with academic ability and its confusion with general
intelligence. Many highly intelligent people have passed through education
feeling they aren’t that clever. Dozens of academically able people have never
discovered their other abilities.

the long term, our whole approach to education has to change. In the short
term, companies and training organisations have to meet three immediate
challenges. The first is to promote a better understanding of the real nature
of creativity. The second is to implement a systemic strategy for developing
creative capacities. Third is a commitment to reward creative output throughout
the company.

people are thought to be naturally creative – the others, “the suits” are not.
The “creatives” wear jeans and don’t wear ties and come in late because they’ve
been struggling with an idea.

ghettoising creativity is a profound mistake. Scientific studies of the brain
confirm that intelligence is multifaceted. Creativity is not confined to
particular people or activities. It’s possible in any activity that engages
human intelligence. Different people have different creative strengths. For
some it will be music, or mathematics, or working with clay, or software, or
images or with people. Real creativity comes from finding your medium, from
being in your element.

organisations underestimate the creative talent in their own midst. Creativity
often involves making connections between different ideas or experiences. This
is why the best creative teams are often made up from specialists in different
fields. Yet, many organisations stifle creativity in the structures they

culture is as rich as it is because human intelligence is so complex and

in many organisations, the creative talents of many people are overlooked
because they’re not in a “creative” role. To face the future companies must
recognise and develop all their creative power, in all its variety – the “creatives”
and “the suits”.

is an urgent agenda for serious and sustained programmes of training and

believe that in the war for talent, we would be out of our minds to settle for

Robinson is Professor of Arts Education at the University of Warwick. In 1998
he was appointed chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Creative and
Cultural Education. He is an adviser to many organisations and national
governments on creativity, education and human resources.

of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative by Ken Robinson, is published by
Capstone, Oxford

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