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Augmenting creativity with AI can take us much further

Business in Singapore and South-east Asia is changing at the speed of light, with the advent of exponential technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics creating new disruptive business models almost overnight.

What would this change, dubbed the "Fourth Industrial Revolution", mean for our jobs and workforce? What can individuals, managers, organisations and governments do to prepare for it? What are the skills essential, not just for our survival, but also to thrive in this new economy?

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), IBM, Adobe, Jack Ma and my own research, there is one skill that will be needed almost more than any other. The good news is, most people already possess this skill, even if we have done very little to develop it. That skill is creativity.

In a study by the WEF, creativity is expected to move from being the 10th most important job skill to becoming the third most important one by 2020. It will be more important than negotiation skills and even emotional intelligence. Why? Well, because technologies like AI and machine learning will replace many non-creative jobs that involve doing routine tasks or analytical work. Yet, there is one skill where we humans still have an advantage - our creativity.

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Recent research from the University of Oxford has estimated that nearly half of jobs are at risk from automation and disruptive technologies, with non-creative, routine, analytical job tasks likely to disappear first. This is already happening in the domains of accounting, finance, marketing and retail.

But even as these technologies replace such job tasks, they are not yet able to accomplish tasks that human creativity could - the ability to create, to generate, to develop and to execute.

There is, however, a problem. Most people do not consider themselves creative. An Adobe study found that nearly 60 per cent of the population did not see themselves as creative. This is a hurdle which policy-makers, educators and business leaders are starting to address.

Singapore has been investing heavily in skills-training in the past decade, with emphasis on nurturing their workforce's capabilities. However, with today's evolving economic landscape, it is critical for both businesses and workers to learn how to harvest the creativity of individuals, teams and citizens and augment it with AI. I call this concept SuperCreativity™.

It is a mindset and tool kit which enables anyone to reach their full creative potential by augmenting their natural curiosity and creativity with exponential technologies.

A case in point: When chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov was defeated in 1997 by Deep Blue, IBM's AI supercomputer, he asked himself this catalytic question: "What if, instead of thinking of AI as my competitor, I thought of it as my collaborator?" From this single question, he conceptualised and created Centaur Chess, pairing human and AI intelligence.

Today, this "Centaur Mindset" of Human+Machine is being played out in businesses big and small. For example, the Airbus A380 comprised components which used "generative design" - a form of SuperCreativity™ to create lightweight, strong and unique designs that no human could have created on their own.


In the world of marketing, we are also beginning to see movie trailers co-created by both human and AI editors. SuperCreativity™ has also been enabling retail businesses to combine smart glasses, facial-recognition technology and our ability to persuade and sell to train a new type of super salesperson.

This trend is also growing in Singapore, where companies like Decks, Benjamin Barker and Commune have adopted and integrated technologies, such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), Beacon Technology and Virtual Reality with their work processes to achieve higher productivity and enhance customer experience. Imagine the potential of SuperCreativity™ applied into everyday operations.

We are now moving from the 20th century concept of creativity to the 21st century's SuperCreativity™. These examples are proof that exponential technologies can help us find and tap our human creative potential, and enable us to combine our innate abilities to be creative and strategic with technologies' tactical capabilities. This brings about not just business growth in the new digital economy, but also new job roles and tasks for our workers.

The future of work is exciting and abounds with opportunities. But in order to get there, businesses, workers, industry players and policy-makers need to rethink, re-imagine and redesign the way things are done, be willing to combine creative abilities with the power of exponential technologies. In the process, to help each individual become a SuperCreative.

  • The writer is a keynote speaker on creativity, innovation and artificial intelligence. He will be giving a keynote presentation titled 'SuperCreativity™: Augmenting human creativity in the age of Artificial Intelligence' on May 14 and a Masterclass titled 'Unlocking creativity for innovation' on May 15 at the Da Vinci Leadership Symposium in Singapore