Monday, July 16, 2012
WILL WE SEE A RISE OF THE CREATIVE CLASS IN WALES?
Given this, you have to wonder why politicians and policymakers are not doing more to encourage greater creativity in the economy. Indeed, that was the subject of research released last week by the software company Adobe.
The “State of Create” report was commissioned not only to get a handle on how important creativity is to the UK economy but, more importantly, how its affects people in their everyday lives.
The main finding is that whilst a high percentage of people in the UK agree that creativity is the key to driving economic growth, we are not living up to our creative potential as a nation i.e. 63 per cent of adults consider themselves to be someone who is creative but only a third feel they are living up to this potential. And what are the main reasons for this perception?
Four out of five believe that there is an increased pressure in work on being productive rather than creative. In addition, risk aversion is seen as a barrier with ‘playing it safe’ being the strategy usually adopted by organisations which results in those who are innovative and entrepreneurial having their ideas stifled by those who are less creative. They also feel that there was a lack of time to create new things and that they cannot afford to be creative. Indeed, a third of adults wanted more time in the workplace to think creatively and to be trained to use different creativity tools.
And for those companies that have encouraged such thinking, there has been commercial payback. Take, for example, the policy of internet giant Google which lets its employees spend one day each work week focusing on their own projects and which has resulted in creating half of the company's new products and services.
Nearly two thirds of the respondents also believed that creativity was being stifled by the UK education system and whilst young people are seen to be more creative than those over the age of 35, they need to be given the opportunity to develop creative skills even within a formal educational environment, especially through greater use of social media tools. Several prominent commentators have supported this view on the limitations that education places on the encouragement of creativity.
For example, the educationalist Sir Ken Robinson, in his now famous 2007 TED lecture, pointed out the many ways in which our schools fail to recognise, much less cultivate, the talents of many brilliant people, arguing that “We are educating people out of their creativity."
A more recent article by Richard Florida also raised similar concerns. Arguing that the current system of primary and secondary education remains an obsolete 19th Century model that was created to churn out workers for factories, he proposed that we need to pay much more attention to early childhood learning as these are the most critical years when creative abilities are shaped. Indeed, it raises an important issue regarding the debate over whether rote learning and test preparation is stifling the future creativity of our young people.
But it is not only education that it critical to encouraging greater creativity in the economy. Florida also argues that it is cities that are the main economic and social organising units of the so-called Creative Age, as they “speed the metabolism of daily life, accelerating the combinations and recombinations of people that spur innovation, business formation, job creation, and economic growth”.
Such a view is timely, given that a Welsh Government taskforce this week proposed the creation of two large city-regions centred on Cardiff and Swansea, a development that could, if managed properly, potentially encourage a greater level of creativity in Wales that could make a real difference to our economy.
Certainly, this new economic approach should ensure a more joined-up approach to sub-regional economic development. However, if it is to succeed, then such a strategy must not only focus on infrastructure developments alone but on ensuring that enterprise, innovation and, most important of all, creativity, are the key drivers that can reboot the Welsh economy over the next decade and beyond.