For the past few centuries, society has richly rewarded strong systems thinkers, logical, analytical, objective people such as computer programmers who build software, engineers who build bridges, lawyers who write contracts, and MBAs who crunch numbers. But as computers take over more of the pure systems thinking, people with only this skill set will find their importance decline. There are about 4 to 5 million engineers and computer scientists employed today in the US and few will be automated out of existence. But in the next 50 years, those that excel in creativity-- big picture thinkers, artists, inventors, designers -- will rise to the top. It could be as big a paradigm shift in labor market history as when tools made physical strength irrelevant, or assembly lines replaced the cottage industry. The illiterates of the future will not be those who cannot read and write or code, but those who cannot connect the dots and imagine a constellation.
From 1975 to 1994 only 0.5% of psychological studies concerned creativity, but now it’s a flourishing field complemented by an entire industry of self-help books on how to become more creative. A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries and 33 industries identified creativity as the No. 1 “leadership competency” of the future (more than rigor, management discipline, integrity and even vision).