There are several meta shifts at the nexus of business, society, and capitalism that I believe are setting the stage for creativity to be for our world what the assembly line was to the 20th century age of industrialism. I've outlined four big reasons below.
(1) Knowledge has become a commodity. As access to knowledge becomes equitably flat, the specialization that marked the information age will lose it's value. The next era (the conceptual age as Daniel Pink describes it) of value creation will belong to generalists, creatives, and empathizers – those who know how to connect seemingly disparate ideas to each other will be those who get ahead. Synthesis as opposed to analysis will become the primary responsibility of leaders who are shaping the future as technology continues to take over the work of analysis.
This idea was proven by an MIT study showed the best teams of the future aren't those with the highest IQs, but those that can effectively share knowledge and identify with users. Right brain thinking is critical to competitive advantage.
(2) The future viability of human civilization will require us to execute more big ideas. Neal Stephenson writing for The World Policy Institute speaks to this notion: "Today’s belief in ineluctable certainty is the true innovation-killer of our age. In this environment, the best an audacious manager can do is to develop small improvements to existing systems—climbing the hill, as it were, toward a local maximum, trimming fat, eking out the occasional tiny innovation—like city planners painting bicycle lanes on the streets as a gesture toward solving our energy problems. Any strategy that involves crossing a valley—accepting short-term losses to reach a higher hill in the distance—will soon be brought to a halt by the demands of a system that celebrates short-term gains and tolerates stagnation, but condemns anything else as failure. In short, a world where big stuff can never get done."
As markets and society demand more from from both the private and public sectors, the ability to develop and deliver big ideas will become paramount. Peter Thiel speaks to this idea in his book Zero–One, and many prominent thought leaders both in academia and in business share this belief.
(3) Exponential change and exponential complexity. Because of what futurist Ray Kurzwel calls the law of accelerating returns, or what Harvard professor Zubiah Shinoff calls the complexity gap, management theory and business strategy are changing radically. Retaining a "sustainable advantage" is no longer about proprietary systems and processes, but by capturing opportunities fast, exploiting them decisively, and moving on even before they are exhausted. Business models that do not allow for this to account for the rapid changes that are now a reality for business will become increasingly irrelevant.
(4) Purpose and meaning are now tied to the bottom line. The paradox of prosperity is that while standards have risen steadily decade after decade, personal, family, and life satisfaction haven’t budged. That’s why more people – liberated by prosperity but not fulfilled by it – are resolving the paradox by searching for meaning. The path towards increased meaning that many including The World Economic Forum and Gallup are prescribing corporate America includes greater workplace autonomy and ownership – effectively distributing the imperative to create value and solve complex problems from the top management to the rest of the organization. It is no secret that organizations who want to innovate consistently must also shift towards this model of distributed ownership – meaning and innovation go hand in hand.