Tuesday, July 28, 2015

‘Sputnik Moment’: Urgent Need to Learn and Teach Creative Thinking Skills

by Marcus Conyers

Part Two in a Six-Part Series
“The problem is that there are only 1.2 billion full-time, formal jobs in the world. This is a potentially devastating global shortfall of about 1.8 billion good jobs. It means that global unemployment for those seeking a formal good job with a paycheck and 30+hours of steady work approaches a staggering 50%.”—Jim Clifton, The Coming Jobs War (2011, p. 2).
In That Used to Be Us, Friedman and Mandelbaum (2011) make the case that for organizations to survive and individuals to thrive, each of us must harness the power of imagination and enhance our capacity for creativity and innovation to deliver that necessary something “extra.”

We can better prepare students for that uncertain future through explicit instruction on how and when to use cognitive skills that are the everyday tools of innovators and entrepreneurs so that they may take their place in what Richard Florida (2014) calls the creative class. At the core of the creative class are people whose “chief economic function is to create new ideas, new technology, and new creative content.”

Developing this skill set is imperative for success in an evolving and devastatingly tight job market: 
  • The creative class makes up one-third to nearly one-half of the workforce in the economically advanced nations of North America, Europe, and Asia. It represents about 40 million jobs in the United States. 
  • Even as traditional skills are being outsourced or rendered obsolete through automation, creative and innovating skills are hot commodities. 
  • The current limited opportunities for education and training in these skills contribute to the deepening economic divide—the difference between landing good-paying jobs with opportunities for advancement and minimum-wage work—underscoring the critical need to empower this generation with the creative and innovative thinking skills that will increase their opportunities. 
  • An Adobe Systems poll of 5,000 people on three continents reports that 80% see unlocking creative potential as crucial to economic growth, but only 25% feel they are living up to their creative potential. 
  • A recent IBM survey of more 1,500 CEOs reports that creativity is the single most prized competency among employees and managers.
Note: This post draws from research that Marcus did for an article, “Innovating Minds—What Students Need for the Future,” for Information Age Education (IAE).


Clifton, J. (2011). The coming jobs war. Omaha, NE: Gallup Press.

Florida, R. (2014). Rise of the creative class. New York: Basic Books.

Friedman, T.L., & Mandelbaum, M. (2011). That used to be us. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.

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