It might seem somewhat odd to connect creativity with the general risk-averse attitudes of many companies, but Adobe has put its finger on a key point: nurture the creative potential of students so that they will bring creative and innovative tools and mindsets to the workplace.
One can have a discussion about whether creativity is a learned skill — for one thing it, like consciousness or love, is almost impossible to define adequately. There’s no simple step-by-step process that will free one’s inner-Picasso or inner-China Miéville.
But that’s a different discussion for another day and forum. What Adobe is addressing in a concrete and necessary way is twofold: What constitutes creativity in today’s workplace? And how do we tap the creative potential of young people to prepare them for the workplace of today and tomorrow?
Adobe says creativity in the workplace starts with creativity in education. As Tacy Trowbridge, group manager of Adobe’s education programs, put it: “Creativity is essential … It’s no longer an elective; it’s the future because the world of work is changing quickly.” The “technological explosion” in the way we communicate means we are faced with “making yourself heard in an increasingly complex and noisy setting,” Trowbridge said.
Work is changing in many ways, Trowbridge continued, and students need to bring tech-savvy skills to the table in order to communicate through digital and visual media, “understand ways in which problems are solved,” and understand problems in new ways. “Creativity is the catalyst for innovation, and it’s critical to economic growth.”
Trowbridge talked about a recent Edelman Berland online survey of 1,068 hiring managers, “Seeking Creative Candidates: Hiring for the Future,” commissioned by Adobe, that underscores the importance of creativity in the workplace. The survey indicates that both the marketplace and technology are changing the evaluation criteria for candidates and increasing the need for creativity in problem-solving.
One telling survey result: When asked whether students are prepared for today’s workplace, 70 percent of the hiring managers surveyed said students are unprepared and lack the necessary tools for success.
More results from the survey underscore the factors faced by businesses and their employment candidates:
“Creativity and problem-solving are becoming the key to success in the new market world,” Trowbridge said. “Candidates with these skills are more valued and rewarded financially.”
The message and the imperative from the survey and other studies, including "The Creative Dividend," is that creativity in business will drive results. Adobe is stepping up big-time to help prepare students for the future through programs such as Adobe Youth Voices, the Adobe Education Exchange and major participation in the White House’s ConnectED initiative.
“Adobe has committed to donate up to $300 million in software and professional development to Title I schools in the United States over the next four years — with the goal of helping youth express creativity and build skills for future success,” Trowbridge says.
More than 78 percent of the Adobe Foundation's cash grants support education initiatives that provide underrepresented youth digital media making and coding skills. In 2014, Adobe launched its Youth Coding Initiative, providing grants to partners like Girls Who Code and CodeNow.
Adobe Youth Voices (AYV) is the Adobe Foundation's signature program. Since it was founded in 2006, more than $53.8 million has been invested. More than 190,000 youth in 60 countries through 1,500 educators have participated in the program since its inception.
The Adobe Foundation also commits $1 million each year to fund the AYV Scholarships, a program for high school seniors (or international equivalents) who have participated in AYV and who apply for support to attend post-secondary education or certificate training in creative fields. “The funds support AYV youth as they go on to become the next generation of creative thinkers and innovators who continue to find innovative ways to improve their communities,” said Lauren Stevenson, senior manager of AYV.
“Creativity is a catalyst for social change. We want to help [students] create with a purpose, to find their voice, what they want to express and what impact they want to have.”
Stevenson noted that for the past nine years students aged 13 to 19 have participated in AYV, but a “new evolution” of the program will see it expand to the 13 to 24 age group.
“I think the core of creativity is the ability to imagine how something can be different and then take steps to make it real. It’s a set of skills, dispositions and capacities that can be developed — everyone has the potential for creativity,” she said.
Jeff Larson, who teaches art and animation at Balboa High School in San Francisco, put it this way: “The creative process can kind of be a messy one … It’s important for students to become creators of content in media because it reverses the roles and the position they are in; instead of passively receiving the information, they have to actively engage and think about the whole process in creation and delivery and learned skills and to communicate with others.”
“I learn as much as the students do,” said Gordon Silveria, a teacher at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. “Waiting for inspiration is just for amateurs, the rest of us just sit down and get to work.”
“The economic imperative for creativity is clear … Business leaders want people who are creative,” said Sir Kenneth Robinson, author and creativity expert. But to produce those people schools need a transformation from linear and standardized approaches. “The world is more connected, complicated and challenging,” he continued, and it is the task for education to promote creativity because “creativity is not an option; it’s an absolute necessity.”
How many companies are taking on the problem, possibility and art of creativity in a serious and comprehensive way?
This is why what Adobe is doing is so impressive. Stevenson said that 65 percent of today’s school kids will end up in jobs that have not yet been invented, so there “has to be a certain nimbleness … there are muscles that can be exercised. Adobe is helping prepare students for the next America.”
Image credit: Pexels