The modern world is obsessed with productivity. Our jobs encourage us to work harder and longer than ever before. If we can work those work emails from home, all the better.
Increasing productivity is one of the main aims of managers. Finding ways to milk as much productivity out of your workers is company policy.
Its simple to see why this is the case. The longer and harder people work, the better the profits for the company and benefits for the economy.
Return on investment is valued higher than giving workers free rein to use their creativity.
Is this the right way of looking at things? Should we prioritise productivity over creativity?
Productivity has its benefits but you can also increase it so much. People can only work so much harder and longer. We are not machines after all.
In a world where automation is beginning to shape the economy maybe its time to actually let the machines take over so we can exercise our creative muscles.
After all, progress is not made by increasing productivity, its made by those who use their brain to imagine new worlds and constructs that shape the future.
The coming decades will reshape the working world. The past thirty years have seen an increase in mundane jobs such as administrators, consultants and telemarketers.
All of these jobs have one thing in common; they are at threat from automation. Advances in artificial intelligence will soon render these jobs redundant and a large portion of the workforce will be left jobless.
Why employ a human to enter figures onto a spreadsheet when a bot can do it faster, and most importantly of all, cheaper.
This is nothing new, it’s been happening for centuries. The industrial revolution saw the rise of machines in factories that were once populated by humans.
Textile machinery was more efficient and productive than human workers. It led to revolts by those who had been disenfranchised by the machines, known as Luddites, but ultimately, the machines won.
The Luddites of the future will be the workers whose jobs are taken by the relentless bots slowly creeping into the workplace.
This problem shows the flaw in pursuing productivity over creativity. Humans can only produce so much. We have limited bandwidth and physical capabilities.
We need to eat, drink, rest and sleep, otherwise, we cannot perform to the best of our ability. Bots and machines have no such worries, as long as they are maintained once in a while, they can keep on working indefinitely.
Instead of focusing on a foolish quest to increase productivity, we should turn our focus to an area where humans have an innate advantage over machines, creativity.
Perhaps humanity’s greatest trait is the ability to imagine new constructs, ideas and worlds. Without this skill, it’s likely we would still be stuck in the jungle and not the dominant species we see today.
This ability has allowed us to create towering buildings, send a man to the moon and send satellites deep into space.
As the working world begins to change in the coming years, creativity will come to be seen as the most important attribute in the workplace.
Creating the future
The flaw of worshipping productivity in the workplace is that it turns us into a cog in a machine. When we feel like a cog, procrastination and disillusionment with our work is inevitable.
This approach in the future will be catastrophic for businesses or governments that pursue it when the cogs will be the machines themselves.
Why waste the talents of humanity on mundane data entry tasks when they can be using their imagination to create new products and ideas?
Some of the most important advancements in human history have come from pushing the boundaries of human ingenuity.
The construction is one such field. Cordless tools are commonplace today, but they never used to be. Workers used to have to plug in their tools to electrical sockets for them to work.
This was cumbersome and inefficient as leads would only stretch so far. Alonzo Decker spotted an opportunity and developed cordless tools that allowed workers to use their tools free from the constraints of the plug socket.
Nowadays, all tools are cordless as standard. Without Decker’s creative foresight, this innovation may have taken many more years to come to fruition.
The irony is that in prioritising creativity ou will actually see productivity gains as a result. Cordless tools are a case in point. They allowed workers to become more efficient instead of being limited by a plug socket.
The problems of the future are building up and require large amounts of brainpower to solve. Climate change, plastic pollution and the rise of automation, without creative solutions to these problems we are doomed to be defeated by them.
Creativity is now the most valuable resource we have. It’s what allowed us to put a man on the moon fifty years ago with minimal computing power. Today, there is more power in your iPhone than the Apollo 11 lander.
If we were capable of such a feat in 1969, what are we capable of today? For too long we have focused on improving productivity when it would have been a better bet to focus on creative solutions.
Carbon capture, tackling environmental issues, colonies on the Moon and Mars, these are all possibilities if we move to a creative economy. The benefits of freeing up our time to think creatively are enormous.
In an ever-changing world, we have no choice but to prioritise creativity over productivity. Our very future depends on it.