Feeling creative? Join the pandemic-weary.

Isolation and remote work have led to a burst of innovation – and a search for the sources of creativity.

AP
Germans protest "for the revival of the cultural and club scene, through the creative use of public space" in Berlin, May 1.

After a year of staying at home during the pandemic, more than half of Americans have picked up a new creative pastime, according to one survey. More than half say they are working more collaboratively from home than in the workplace. Another survey shows a boom in patents for new technologies to assist at-home work. And unlike previous recessions, the United States has seen more than 4.4 million new businesses created over the past year.

In Europe, meanwhile, a survey of managers and employees found 82% say their productivity rate held steady or increased after learning to work remotely. A majority said remote work is a powerful way to retain top talent. In both Europe and the U.S., productivity is expected to increase 1.5% a year until 2024 – or double the pre-pandemic rate, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

All this was not expected a year ago. The great disruption of COVID-19 has led to a great burst of creativity or, at the least, a search for ways to foster and manage creativity.

According to the World Economic Forum, the pace of change in industries will require more than half of employees to acquire new skills by 2025. And what skills are most needed? They are creativity, active learning, innovative thinking, and originality. The shifts caused by the pandemic “have accelerated the need for reskilling, upskilling, learning and redeployment at scale,” according to the WEF.

“We have learned skills that we didn’t have,” said Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank, at a recent Aspen Security Forum. “We have experienced remote working relationships, we have not lost much in terms of productivity, quite, sometimes, to the contrary.”

One change is most noticeable, according to Jon Friedman, Microsoft’s vice president for design and research: Companies no longer define productivity as how much a worker produces in a period of time. Rather, workers are judged for creativity and innovation.

By that standard, many of the limits once set for work and for workers are coming off.

As poet Maya Angelou said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” For all the finite restrictions imposed by the pandemic, people have chosen to tap into an infinitely renewable resource.

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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