Creativity - the skill that has seen a 65 per cent surge in demand in the past three years

Posted: 30th May

It is the skill that has seen a 65 per cent surge in demand in the past three years. 

But for many entering the job market it is as ambiguous as "synergy". 

Creativity, the Foundation for Young Australians says, is the way of the future, according to its survey of 4.2 million job ads in April.

But what does it mean and can you teach it? 

Two panels at this years Vivid Festival, How to make a career out of ideas and Creativity in Education, will tackle that question. 

Frustrated by the advertising industry's insistence on categorising people as "creatives" and "non-creatives," 25-year-old John Dawson curated a panel with a scientist, chef, entrepreneur, a reality TV producer and a technology expert. 

"Creative has become a noun that has been assigned to a special few," said the Mindshare strategist who will chair the panel on Sunday. 

For one of the panelists, 29-year-old artist turned materials scientist Jehan  Kanga, creativity has finally infiltrated the laboratory. 

"Chemistry used to be about spending decades locked up, 'I'll do my work, then you do your work and then we will make a paper',"  he said. 

"Now it's more like the creative development we see in the arts. We sit around a table and discuss ideas. Nine times out of 10 they don't work, but the one time it does work it has the potential to change an industry." 

One of Mr Kanga's more promising ideas is a "Disneyland dementia village," with a fake butcher and grocery store, based on a Dutch model where dementia patients live in a Truman Show-esque village that mirrors outside life as closely as possible and savings are made through automation. 

"Dementia is the most uncool growth industry there is, but two thirds of our generation will end up with it and the services are totally s***," he said.

It's a concept that goes to the heart of those 21st century job buzzwords, creativity and innovation. They are about identifying a problem, analysing the players, and finding a gap in the market for you or your employer to exploit. 

For fellow panelist 21-year-old Cassandra Mao, the disruption of industries such as aged care and the rise of global movers Uber and Airbnb, is at the core of the creative new economy. It is also at the centre of the federal government's $28 million advertising campaign for its "innovation agenda". 

The entrepeneur said that all creativity, whether it is in IT or dementia, comes back to a customer focus.

According to the Foundation for Young Australians that notion has flowed through the top 15 occupations now requiring "creativity," including IT engineers, software programmers and chefs, with an average salary boost of $3,129 per job listing creativity as an attribute. 

"Understanding what the customer wants extends quite naturally in my head to strategy and solving the problem that a customer has," Ms Mao said. 

She believes problem solving foundation can be taught. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development agrees. For the first time this year it tested 15-year-olds around the world on their "creative problem solving" skills. 

"If you tell a child to work out how to feed itself, interesting things will happen," Ms Mao said. 

"In a world where the bottom gets eaten up by automation, humans capable of higher order creativity will be the key." 

Top 15 occupations requiring creativity:

1. Advertising professional
2. Sales representative
3. Multimedia specialist and web developer
4. PR manager
5. Graphic and web designer
6. Software programmer
7. ICT Test engineer
8. Artistic directors and media producer
9. Chefs
10. Finance manager
11. Management and organisation analyst
12. Civil engineer
13. Technical sales representative
14. Project administrator
15. HR professional
Source: Foundation for Young Australians survey of 2.4 million job ads

May 29, 2016 - Eryk Bagshaw - The Age