The future of work is creative collaboration

Jan 10 2020 by Eugene Hughes Print This Article

The World Economic Forum (WEF) 2018 Future of Jobs report identified three top skills required for workers to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution. In 2022 the most in demand skills - according businesses surveyed by WEF - will be: 1). Analytical thinking and innovation. 2). Active learning and learning strategies, and 3). Creativity, originality and initiative.

Considering the importance of imagination, innovation, collaboration and the ability to grasp multiple perspectives to each of these, this sets creative collaboration as the foundation of all top three future skills.

Before we look at the five reasons why creative collaboration is the future or work let’s consider the consequences of what the WEF call the fourth industrial revolution, which has been the core theme of its Davos conference since 2017.

What is the fourth industrial revolution and what does it mean for jobs?

The term fourth industrial revolution was coined by WEF chairman Klaus Schwab, to characterise the collective impact of technological advances such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, robotics, automation, etc. on the industry.

Many aspects of this are an evolution of the internet or digital revolution, which has been transforming consumption, business and work throughout the latter part of the last century.

But where digital technologies impacted jobs by introducing new more efficient ways of working, buying / selling, consuming and communicating, the broader technologies of the fourth industrial revolution will potentially threaten jobs because, increasingly, machines / computers / algorithms will be able to perform a wide spectrum of roles - from self-driving vehicles to data processing - jobs that today are done by people.

There are five reasons why creative collaboration is the future or work:

1. In the digitised workplace the creative collaborators are kings

We all see that the world is rapidly digitising: everything that can be digitised will be digitised. This is why in the very near future, every job will have to be creative - otherwise it will be done by algorithms or machines. As WEF predicts, many roles will see a dramatic increase in the proportion of the job being performed by algorithms or machines instead of humans.

But creativity alone is not enough. The idea of advances coming only from the single, solitary, introverted genius working in isolation is a myth of yesterday. The reality is that the biggest breakthroughs happen when networks of people with a collective vision join up and share ideas, and work together in creative collaboration.

2. Creativity differentiates humans from machines

In this digitalised world, we have to think about what our unique function, our USP, as humans really is. What differentiates us from algorithms and machines, and what is the value we can add? The answer has to be creativity - and the ability to work creatively with other people.

The big concern is the way most people work today is task orientated, with little room for the creative thought and processes that distinguishes us humans from machines. In the words of James Hewitt, head of science and innovation at Hintsa Perfomance:

“Efficient, productivity-orientated tasks are easy to reproduce by another human, or even a machine. Creativity is rare. Creativity is the antidote to the poison of efficiency over effectiveness.”

Hewitt riles against the corporate culture of endless emailing, pointless presentations, restrictive task-based job specs and time-clocked roles. Strip that away and: “All humans have the capacity to be creative and many of us could unlock more of our creative potential with the right process and conditions.”

3. Let humans be human at work

So what actually makes us human? It is foremost empathy and connection: to connect to others, collaborate and co-create.

We are all born creative. We just forget, lose confidence in our creativity or have it drummed out of us at school and work. Indeed, studies suggest that schools focus on exam results kill creativity.

When managers say: “I’m not creative! I’m better with numbers…” I tell them to visit a Kindergarten. You won’t find a single child in a kindergarten that isn’t creative in one way or another. It’s only later that children are told by teachers or parents: “That picture’s not good, you’re clearly not creative.” or “You’re better with numbers, you should become an accountant.”

To make ourselves relevant in the future workplace, we need to rediscover the creativity we all had as children and rebuild our creative confidence.

4. No man is an island

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” When the English writer and poet John Donne wrote these famous lines 400 years ago, he perfectly expressed the need of us humans to be part of a larger community to thrive.

This of course still counts for us humans in the work place: we need to cooperate, collaborate and co-create to collectively master the challenges of this complex world at the speed required by modern business.

5. The power of diversity

Let’s not forget the power of diversity. Different and diverse views from people with different backgrounds and experience help groups make sense of things and create new things.

Diverse teams enable a deep collective understanding of the nature of alternative industries or the constituent parts of the business, and a recognition of how these learnings can be applied to the present challenges and opportunities faced by the business. The shared ability of diverse groups to recognize and identify patterns and put them into a larger context, known as pattern recognition, helps the business grasp the bigger picture in context and tackle complex problems better.

This is why it’s important to bring together different perspectives, for example combining the views of an engineer with the view of an artist, a designer and, for example, a racing car driver.

This explains why companies appoint CEOs from different businesses, such as Ford’s 2017 appointment of James Hackett with his background in furniture manufacturing and design thinking as CEO in 2017.

How do we apply this creative collaboration into our work?

Every business leader and manager knows that the world is now formed of global interconnected networks of networks, but very few companies have actually transferred this new reality to their own organisations. Most organisations remain hierarchical, top-down, process-driven institutions confined to working within their corporate ivory towers.

It requires a fundamental shift in mindset to apply a networked model to organisations. It will enable the business to profit from the collective power of interconnected networks of people, unleashing and activating the creative potential of everyone, both inside and outside of the organisation.


Companies are crying out for people who can lead creative collaboration. If this sounds like you, consider gaining a qualification with Artgym Academy’s Facilitating Creative Collaboration Advanced Diploma based in London or Shanghai.

The next London course takes place in February 2020. Click here for more information.

Jon Husband describes this transformation as a shift from hierarchies to wirearchies:

“Wirearchy is about the power and effectiveness of people working together through connection and collaboration... taking responsibility individually and collectively rather than relying on traditional hierarchical status.”


The future of work will be more and more defined by interconnected networks individuals, working together collectively in creative collaboration to accelerate processes and to achieve more together.

This is changing how we work and altering the structure of organisations. Work is moving away from people working for and within a single company, towards a concept of people working with companies in interconnected networks. I believe this should lead to a better work-life integration and to more personal fulfilment, working in high-performance teams with a common greater purpose.

About The Author

Eugene Hughes
Eugene Hughes

Eugene Hughes is Chief Executive of people transformation consultancy, Artgym and co-founder of Lead Like a River wilderness retreats, ranked in The Times ‘top 20 life changing experiences’.