Creativity Is the New Productivity

In the age of A.I. and machine learning, just being more productive won’t cut it. The future belongs to the creatives.

Scott Belsky

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The Productivity-Creativity Inversion

When leaders face the challenge of scaling their teams, they hire people to replicate many of the tasks they were doing. Sure, you might be able to do the mundane aspects of your job, but you’re better off hiring someone else to do it so you can concentrate on your more important value: thinking creatively and strategically about your product and company’s future.

In a sense, humanity has been doing the same thing for centuries: “hiring” people and machines to take over every mundane and repetitive action that consumes our natural human resources (work, energy, carbs — however you want to frame it). Sure, you could walk half a day to get your crop to market, but if a truck will get you there in half an hour, you’ll earn your revenue quicker and have more time to spend planting the next crop. From cars and industrial machinery to databases, algorithms, and office productivity tools, we have an insatiable desire to free our mental and physical energy for higher-order tasks.

Today, machines can accomplish a huge percentage of our daily tasks just as well as we can (if not better), and they do it for a lower price tag. Obviously, this has led to serious, negative ramifications for labor markets, but there is also upside. We are finally freed up — and disproportionately rewarded — for doing something only humans can do: be creative.

In the Human Productivity Parabola (see graph below), we have now passed the point — call it the “Productivity-Creativity Inversion” — where machines (algorithms, robots, etc.) have become a better investment for future productivity gains than humans. At this point, we as humans are better off spending our energy on creativity than on productivity.

Why the return of our human energy spent on creativity now exceeds the return spent on productivity. (Sketched in Adobe Fresco!)

If productivity, previously scarce and valuable, is increasingly abundant and commoditized, then we must shift our investments — from how we…

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Scott Belsky

founder @Behance, cpo @Adobe, early stage investor and product obsessive; author of Making Ideas Happen and The Messy Middle. http://scottbelsky.com