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Don't Fear The Robot: What Automation Means For Creative Teams

What comes to mind when you hear the word automation? Manufacturing assembly lines? Self-driving cars? Those hosts from Westworld?

What comes to mind when you hear the word automation? Manufacturing assembly lines? Self-driving cars? Those hosts from Westworld? In truth, automation is an expansive term that covers the myriad ways in which we can apply technology to existing processes and tasks to make them more efficient and cost-effective. Yes, it’s self-driving cars and voice-activated virtual assistants like Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, but it’s also software that allows us to do digitally what we used to have to do on paper (proof mockups, track budgets) or face-to-face (assign projects, give real-time feedback).

One of the biggest fears around automation (aside from those sci-fi tropes about killer robots) is that it will take away jobs and that the work we rely on human ingenuity and effort to accomplish today will be handed over to a machine tomorrow. In reality, global consulting firm McKinsey predicts that only 5% of jobs could be fully automated.

While automation may not steal your job, it will affect it. A global survey of almost 20,000 employers across industries conducted by Manpower Group, a human resources consulting firm, uncovered some interesting results.

  • 83% of business leaders surveyed intended to maintain or increase their workforce in the face of automation.
  • 3 out of 4 employers believe that automation will require their employees to learn new skills -- a finding supported by McKinsey’s research.
  • Almost three-quarters of employers are investing in internal training to keep their employees’ skills up to date and 44% are augmenting their workforce with new hires whose skills will support the shift toward more automation.

You might think the future therefore belongs to data scientists, programmers and machine learning or AI experts. While it’s true their skills will make them hot commodities in the increasingly automated future of work, there’s another critical cohort who’ll also thrive alongside computerization -- creatives. Yes, according to research from UK charity Nesta, occupations where the work requires a high degree of creativity are the least likely to be replaced by machines. 87% of what researchers coded as the most creative careers (think designers, art directors, architects, marketing leaders and editors) face low to no risk of being made redundant by robots over the coming decade.

Not only will the future still need those with artistic and imaginative talents to bring everything from movies to websites to billboards to life, as we increasingly automate inefficient aspects of our workflows, we’ll need creative thinkers to be the bridge between people and machines, to find novel ways of blending human innovation with computing efficiency and to push the envelope on what truly creative work looks like in an automated age.

As we’ve said before, it’s a great time to be a creative.