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The Most Important Skill for the Future

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I saw a billboard the other day that said something to the effect of: “The top 15 careers of 2025 don’t even exist today.” Whether those numbers are accurate or not, they’re almost certainly in the ballpark. The point is, we can’t predict with any certainty what the challenges and opportunities will be even a few years down the pike. After all, in the 60s nobody was predicting anything remotely like the computer industry or the Internet, not to mention billionaire-makers such as Google or Myspace. Since we don’t know what’s around the corner, how can we plan for it? We can’t—specifically. But there is one skill that can help us navigate uncertain waters, and it’s a skill that all of us have. I believe it’s the most crucial skill that any current or future business leader can develop. So what is it?

Creativity. The ability to tap into your naturally innovative brain.

Think about it. When things change, as surely they will, who will be better prepared to deal with the new situation: the leader who only knows one way of doing things, or the leader who can create new possibilities, who can see new connections, and who can devise new solutions?

The artist with only one color of paint is limited. But the artist with a full spectrum on his or her palette has options limited only by his or her imagination.

When Paul McCartney wrote the song Yesterday, the model for a rock and roll band was (and still is, largely) drums, bass, and guitars. But when Paul played the song for the Beatles’ producer, George Martin, Martin said, “Well, it’s not really a Beatles song, is it?” What he meant was that it didn’t fit the model. So the Beatles invented a new model, and had George Martin score the song for a classical string quartet. Later, the Beatles would imagine songs involving brass sections, east Indian instruments, synthesizers, and full orchestras. And from the very beginning, they were playing with chords and song structures that had no precedent in rock and roll. It’s all about creativity, innovation, and imagination.

I don’t know what the next decades will bring any more than you do, but I’m absolutely certain that the ability to bring the full powers of our naturally innovative brains to whatever comes our way is going to be what separates the successes from the failures.

There are a number of wonderful books that can help you tap into your creative mind, but here are my two favorites:

  • The Medici Effect, by Frans Johansson
  • The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life, by Twyla Tharp

I urge you to get these books, read them, and think about how they can apply to your work. I promise you this: every moment you spend developing your naturally creative brain is a moment spent digging in a vein of pure gold.

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About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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