Australia’s creative economy deficit; why ‘creativity needs to become central to the national agenda’

16 August 2018 Authored by Consultancy.com.au

The international playing field has changed dramatically with the arrival of the creative economy and Australia cannot just sit by and watch, warns PwC’s Chief Creative Officer, Russel Howcroft. The Big Four executive calls for the establishment of an Australian Creativity Commission to point Australia in the right direction.

Australia is one of the worlds richest countries. Throughout the past two and a half centuries, Australians prospered economically through international trade, exploiting natural resources and entrepreneurship. However Australians have become to complacent – with economic growth almost as a given – to seriously plan for the future.

“We’re just not growing fast enough and our old modes of generating growth are becoming increasingly less productive. Resting on natural assets is simply not enough. We have to move up the value chain and to do that we have to find a better way to harness our human assets.”

Internationally, the best and brightest – and of course the biggest – firms are preparing for digital disruption at breakneck speed. What were traditionally accounting firms have moved into the digital space to create today’s consulting and professional services and technology is on the way to become the worlds largest industry, surpassing agriculture and construction.

The creative economy deficit; why ‘creativity needs to become central to the national agenda’

The backbone of these shifts rests on innovation, and the driver of innovation is creativity. So when Russel Howcroft argued that “Creativity needs to become central to the national agenda” at the National Press Club this week, he is by no means talking about creativity just in the sense of theatre or arts. “‘Creativity’ is not a soft word. It does not just belong in the sandpit,” he said.

Creativity was for the majority of baby-boomers suppressed in the workplace. White collar and tie, black pants and shoes. Static offices, bland spaces for less distraction and ideas came from the top down. Today these concepts still exist in the workplace and create conflict between newer and older generations of workers. However with the gradual introduction of technology into the workplace – from calculators and floppy disks to AI and IoT – taking over the monotonous roles that human brains once performed, workplaces have to find new ways to increase productivity.

New ways of thinking arose, flattening the structures of organisations. New agile ways of working, flexibility in the workplace. People are being given more freedoms to be themselves and in turn test their own theories and ideas. And it’s working. Allowing workers to dream has produced incredible organic growth for the biggest companies in the world today.

The global economy is shifting. “Employment in the creative sector is growing almost twice the rate of employment across all sectors. Other sectors are increasingly relying on workers with creative skills for their own growth and innovation. Creative jobs are jobs of the future.”

“The Creativity Commission…will be our Future Fund of ideas”

“If we look at the shift in the Fortune 500 companies over the last decade, versus the relatively static ASX, we see Australian companies haven’t embraced the pivot to creativity. We still rely heavily on mining and financial services,” Howcroft states. But that’s a problem because no matter how much we like it, being an island cannot save us from a technology influx driven by disruption the international economy.

But it hasn’t quite spread to the Lucky Country yet. Sure, Australia has had its fare share of success in the past few years in mining and construction, plus a couple of unicorns in the tech world, but the corporate world and the government is yet to adapt. Creating an atmosphere in Australia that inspires and allows Australians to engage in entrepreneurship must be a national priority. The PwC executive calls for a national Creativity Commission to boost the nations creative flair.

“A new body — the Creativity Commission — would bring our best creative thinkers together to devise and support new ways to address our biggest challenges in a cogent and game-changing way, imagining new futures outside current systems.” Howcroft contends that if Australia start now it can boost international competitiveness, productivity and grow the nations economy along the way.

“We can no longer rely on being the Lucky Country, or even simply aspire to be the Clever Country… We must become the Creative Country,” he says. “If we don’t, we’ll be less capable, less connected, less compassionate and less competitive.”

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