We live in an incredible time. Art and science intersect in new, profound ways. Technology has also become more accessible, allowing for the widespread adoption of new ideas faster than ever before.
Like many other tech founders, Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, could have kept his company solely within the technology space. Instead, he said that a great business lay at the intersection of liberal arts and the sciences. This vision and foresight is so apparent today at Apple through its product line that has helped unleash the creative power and potential of so many individuals across the world.
For anyone interested in a creative career, the swift changes happening today as art and science mesh and interact in new ways, is also very exciting.
Having the ability to create - whether it is writing, designing, drawing, coding, teaching, research, playing music or inventing a new product or service - is a wonderful gift. Being able to apply that in a way that is meaningful can also offer you tremendous fulfillment.
The creative class, a term coined by Richard Florida, accounts for 1/3 of the workforce and earns over 1/2 of the nation's wages.
An economist and social scientist, Richard Florida came up with the term creative class in his book The Rise of the Creative Class to constitute people who were working in professions where they constantly create and "fully engage in the creative process." (2002, pg. 69). This includes a large variety of occupations including science, computer programming, engineering, research, education, arts, design and media.
This class is also responsible for creating entirely new jobs that did not exist even five to ten years ago. The demand for these positions is accelerating today. In fact, an extensive study by the World Economic Forum revealed that as high as 65% of children entering primary school today will be in jobs that do not yet exist.
So how do you build a creative career that uses your abilities and offers you ways to make an impact?
We've got a few ideas. :)
1. Have Purpose
Work that has meaning, resonates with you. Having purpose in what you do, is both a grounding experience and an empowering one. From that place, you grow aware of your strengths and abilities and learn how you can contribute effectively. You also become part of something bigger than yourself. Purpose gives meaning to your work.
Apple CEO Tim Cook recently shared in his commencement address to MIT graduates how working at Apple gave him purpose he was seeking. He also encouraged graduates to "use your minds and hands — and your hearts — to build something bigger than yourselves." Tim also asked this great question, "How will you serve humanity?"
2. Allow Yourself the Freedom to Experiment and Fail
It may be hard to believe but when Thomas Edison was in school, his teachers considered him not intelligent enough to learn anything. Edison thankfully did not take this to heart. His persistence in work was remarkable. Edison failed 1,000 times before he finally succeeded in inventing the light bulb, one of the greatest inventions of modern society. So many entrepreneurs and inventors have failed multiple times over a long span of time before they ultimately found success in their ideas. During his 84 years, Thomas Edison went on to acquire 1,093 patents, inventing the phonograph, the incandescent light bulb and one of the first motion picture cameras. Edison also created the first industrial research laboratory in the world. What would have happened if he just gave up?
We like Edison's mindset to keep experimenting and not giving up, where you allow yourself the ability to fail and make mistakes and try again! This gives you the freedom to begin and to try out new ideas. The freedom to experiment is often where the best ideas and solutions come from. We value both experimentation and giving each person working at Elf the freedom to think independently. A great example of this in action is Gmail, in use by 1.2 billion people as of July 2017 and by 25% of the American workforce, that was created by a Google employee Paul Buchheit during the 20 percent time given to employees every week to experiment and create their own ideas. Many apps today come out of experimentation and responding to problems people perceive and wish to address.
3. Keep a Solution-Oriented Design and Engineering Mindset
We love designing at Elf. We also have found that having a design and engineering mindset helps us solve client problems. We go in with a clear goal to solve problems and to come up with winning solutions, and then we go and accomplish that. This mindset can be applied to anything though. It is not limited to digital creative work.
Often in creating intellectual property and designing innovative experiences for clients, we have discovered that we are also transforming their existing businesses. Looking at a problem in a new way can also help identify and then address previously unmet customer needs. This in turn, also engage new customers and help expand our clients' customer base and audience.
We think that many of the global problems that we see today are design problems - problems that can be solved! By using your mind in new creative ways, who knows - maybe you will be the individual who rises to the challenge and helps design and engineer a solution to an existing problem!
4. Be Original
Creativity demands originality. To do something original, you create something that has never been done before. It is unique to you. This is often the main reason you wish to be in a creative profession - you have a deep desire to express your own ideas.
5. Be Skilled, Love Craftsmanship and Strive for Excellence
Creating anything of value requires a desire to excel. It draws upon your skills (innate and learned), a love of craftmanship, beauty and precision. You care about the work you do and contributing at a higher level. You own your work and you want to create value.
6. Help Others
We've found in helping others, that we grow too. At Elf, we have a couple of different initiatives that we have done over the years. Our magazine Hayden's has grown significantly over the years since its founding in Dec 2008 to become a 9 M+ global community. By sharing the works of visual artists and musicians, we've learned a lot as well. It is an enriching and inspiring experience.
Additional ideas in the works include an accelerator to help graduating high school students build out new business ideas while they are at college and a hack-a-thon series that we are just beginning in 2017. We also host portfolio reviews periodically with Behance to encourage aspiring creatives within our local communities both here and abroad at our office in London, England.
Through all of our events and community endeavors, we've noticed some common threads. Creative people consistently seek out:
- high quality experiences
- opportunities to excel and collaborate
- open environments for learning
- opportunities to validate their creativity
- recognition and appreciation for their work
- opportunities to be creative in other ways (lifestyle and recreational choices)
- inclusive and tolerant environments
7. Employ Creative Thinking
Being original could be a small thing, spinning off an existing idea, product or service or a small improvement that improves a product or service. As a designer, it could be in the way you take a complex idea and present it effectively in one illustration.
It can also be a very big disruptive idea, resulting in businesses that completely upend industries through innovative approaches to meeting customer needs.
The sharing economy is an example of a big disruptive idea. AirBnB revolutionized the travel lodging industry by offering a way for people to rent out their homes without actually owning or controlling at least a stake in all the rental properties in question (like prior practice). Uber also changed the transportation industry in a similar way. This shift from an asset-driven economy to a sharing economy is happening across many industry sectors.
When you have got a big disruptive idea, you may not have any benchmarks or relevant industry data to learn from. You are essentially creating something entirely new that has not been done before. You need courage and determination to do this despite the unknowns that you may face.
You can also create a spinoff or variation of an existing idea that has been met with great customer success. The meal delivery service industry is a good example of this. Blue Apron was one of the first companies to offer packaged weekly meals delivered to your home, saving you time going to the grocery store while helping you stay healthy and teaching you how to cook. Since then, many companies now offer this. Some provide additional options like paleo, gluten-free or other dietary choices such as SunBasket and yet others provide even pre-cut vegetables like Terra's Kitchen. In the car rental and transportation industry as well, companies like Lyft and locally based businesses have now developed models similar to Uber but with their own differentiating factors (better customer service, quality of vehicles) that make them stand out.
We don't expect you to come up with a new idea for a new business product or service when you arrive or even while you work at Elf. What we do want to see though is curiosity, a desire to experiment, a willingness to collaborate and an internal drive and passion for excellence.
On a last note, we have remarkable opportunities available today to us to create new innovations and to see things in new ways. This also allows for more individuals to share their ideas and creativity, which in turn, leads to inclusivity and bringing people from different industries and backgrounds together.
We're excited by this and what we can do to contribute to our society and the world, in both big and small ways. We hope reading this inspires you to grow and to become all that you can be.