Why Australia needs a Creativity Commission

Russel-Howcroft-768x803-thumb-250x261-296957.jpgBy Russel Howcroft, PwC chief creative officer and chair of the Australian Film Television and Radio School

Australia, we have a problem. Our economy is not growing fast enough. Our old modes of generating growth are becoming increasingly less relevant. But there is a solution: creativity needs to become central to the national agenda.

Today, Australia is the world's 13th largest economy and a member of the G20. However, we're going backwards. According to PwC's 2050 Report, by 2030 Australia will drop to 29th, roughly swapping positions with Bangladesh.

The era of resting on natural assets to fuel our prosperity is over. We have to move up the value chain, and to do that, we need to find ways to better harness our human assets.

Creativity can, and should, be one of our most significant drivers of future growth and competitiveness. But many still think creativity belongs in the sandpit and not on the spreadsheet. We need to find a way for creativity's power to be front and centre in our economy.
Creativity is not a soft word. International predictive data about work released by the UK's National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) shows that creative jobs are likely to see a growth rate of 87 per cent by 2030, compared with a sharp decline across more traditional industries.

At home, the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that the creative sector contributes an astonishing $86.7 billion to our GDP. The role of creativity is to build value, and we need to start taking it seriously, as seriously as P&L, dividends and working capital.

Creativity matters socially - for our education, well-being and the cohesion of our community - and it matters culturally, to help define who we are and how we share our story with the world.

And when I say creativity, I'm not just talking about "the Arts". Creativity covers everything from the core cultural arts - like fine art and filmmaking - to the more commercially-orientated creative industries such as architecture and advertising. It also extends to creative practices in other industries, such as the changing role of service design across all sectors.

In the new economy, creativity is a key driver of commercial competitiveness and edge. It is core to the way we develop and support ideas, find commercial opportunities, create business models and build relationships with consumers across the whole economy.

Why aren't we investing in, empowering and harnessing creativity across our entire economy, in business, in schools, in communities and in public policy?

Part of the problem - and opportunity - lies in our education system. Last year, the United Nations ranked Australia a lowly 39th out of 41 affluent nations in providing quality education.

Our focus on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) is limiting us. Ironically, the countries across our region that have been known for investment in STEM are now focusing on creativity.

Last year, the National University of Singapore undertook a massive research project to determine what skills would better prepare its graduates for the world. It found that future generations won't need technical skills, but rather "soft" skills and drivers of creativity.

We need to expand our focus from STEM to STEAM. We need to elevate the Arts to supercharge our children's learning and train our kids in creativity.

Consider this. When Australia wasn't performing in sport, the government created a commission to deal with it. The Australian Sports Commission develops excellence and promotes participation in sports by all Australians.

When productivity was an issue for Australia in the late 1990s, the government established a Productivity Commission to review, conduct research and give advice.

I believe we now need to establish a Creativity Commission. It would have four primary functions:

● To support the growth of the creative economy.

● To build creative capacities and ideas to help inform policy, initiatives and industry.

● To recognise the interests of the community and how we can use creativity to facilitate better outcomes for the nation.

● To support the development of creative and internationally competitive Australian businesses.

Such a move is not without precedent. Other countries are already heavily invested in highly productive programs. The UK, for example, has global innovation foundation NESTA, which started with a £250 million endowment to harness creativity, the Creative Industries Council and Creative Britain to build all these possibilities.

We need to find a new way - an Australian way - of supporting creative approaches and persuading our decision-makers to think beyond the short-term and the politically marketable.

A Creativity Commission would bring our best creative thinkers together to devise and support new ways to address our biggest challenges in game-changing ways. It would be our Future Fund of ideas, not just dollars.

The new body would help remove barriers and empower businesses across sectors to collaborate and engage in creative thinking. Critically, it would fund start-ups, kickstart new ventures and help realise the IP that emerges from its work - empowering ideas through action.

Finally, it would help supercharge and sell what we are doing across all areas of government and business.

I want to see Australia become creative in tangible ways that benefit us all, and to build on our talents to generate a sustainable competitive advantage. Let's embed creativity in our institutions, our government, our schools.

We need great ideas, and the capacity to realise them, and we need more self-belief. A Creativity Commission would go a long way to achieving just that.

13 Comments

Good insight here by Russel.

Spot on in his thinking and I believe the creation of a Creativity Commission would be an important step in turning Australia into a powerhouse for the future.

I wonder what steps are needed to make this actually a top level issue for the government?

Only time will tell...

Trying To Create A Few Headlines said:

Would the 'Creative Commission' be something like Malcolm's 'Innovation Nation'?

Call it whatever you like said:

You can argue about what form it should take and what it should be called, but you cannot argue for the need for Australia to encourage, promote, incentivise, protect and support creativity in all its forms.
We cannot allow Singapore, Israel, the USA and other progressive economies lure the best creative thinkers away from Australia - because when they leave, the jobs, services and wealth their ideas create go with them.
Australia is at a tipping point. There is not a global league table of any significance on tax, debt, education etc., that doesn't show Australia dropping further and further down the table which makes initiatives like the Creativity Commission more vital than ever.

Lol said:

I remember going to a lecture by Uncle Russ at The Project studios a few years ago where he tried to convince us TV viewership was growing.

Ron Mather said:

Good one Russel

Trying To Create A Few Headlines said:

Seriously? The Government is going to make creativity central to the national agenda?
Perhaps Uncle Russ can help by drawing on his experience running Y&R.

Trying To Create A Few Headlines said:

Seriously? The Government is going to make creativity central to the national agenda?
Perhaps Uncle Russ can help by drawing on his experience running Y&R.

Trying To Create A Few Headlines said:

Dear Uncle Russ, I kind of agree with your philosophical stance. Statistically however, not so much. In the financial year 2014/2015 tourism for example, accounted for 3% of Australia's GDP, contributing $47.5 billion to the national economy. You don't define what the Creative Sector actually is but state that it "contributes an astounding $86.7 billion to our GDP. Really? You also relate that, "when Australia wasn't performing in sport, the government created a commission to deal with it. The Australian Sports Commission develops excellence and promotes participation in sports by all Australians." Tennis? Think Bernard Tomic. Cricket? Think blazer brigade fired - national team a shambles. Rugby Union? Less said the better. Rugby League?
A ratings debacle. Athletics? Give me one example where Australia has, recently, on the international stage, excelled beyond all others. All Australia has to do to be more creative, is to be more creative. Write better ads than New Zealand, produce better TV series than 'Janet King' and compose more popular songs than Courtney Barnet or Amy Shark. Do you know how much Australian content there is on Netflix? 1.6%. Why? Because no-one what's to watch what we produce. Perhaps one of the most creative entities Australia ever had was the Campaign Palace. Look what happened to that. If you think the future of creativity is dependent on the people in Canberra, I suggest you binge out on one of the few excellent Australian TV series, "Utopia" To miss quote pogo, "we have met the problem, and the problem is you."

Agreed. said:

I agree with you Mr Howcroft – but how does one go about creating something like this?

Perhaps there would be a senior figure in the industry, one who is well recognised and connected who could do this?

An insight just from my little part of the puddle (Australia's too small to call it a pond)...
The best creative thinkers I know, including advertising people, app developers, software engineers etc – they're all going / have gone to the States. They don't necessarily like living there, but the taxes, cost of living, lifestyle and wages are all well above Australian standards.

I'm only still here because of family – next funeral, I'm out on the next plane. NSW in particular is sh*thouse when it comes to innovation or the arts.

Six years of a neo-con liberal government says what? said:

What?

Creativity isn't just arts said:

I heard your speech at the National Press Club last year and totally get it.

It's not just the obvious creativity, it's the creativity in problem-solving and business thinking.


We hammer it out of our kids at an early age and creativity is made to seem like only a special bunch of cool unique people can do.

Currently, most businesses make decisions and solve problems with rational thinking. Where economics determine the decision-making criteria and counter-intuitive ideas are scared away.

As more and more jobs get automated the one thing that AI cannot come up with is creative solutions to problems.

Yet, other than advertising and tv, creative ideas are frowned upon. So i get it, we need to instill creativity in all work places... and we need a big organisation to instil it...

Old CD Guy said:

Creativity - at least in the advertising space - scares the shit out of most clients.

In my experience they usually resist it with their every fibre.

I have case-studies.

They are much more comfortable with work that resembles that of the category, or their competitors.

Mmmm, yes.

Baron De Rothschild said:

Creativity will fix everything. Not rebuilding the broken fractional reserve banking system. Creativity. Get off the sauce Rusty. Stop shilling for the banksters and be honest for once in your goshdarn life.

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