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Why it's time to stop worrying about your productivity

For centuries, human beings’ key to success has been, essentially, “Do more, faster.” Productivity has led to prosperity. But in 2020 we will see a change to this paradigm. Thanks to big data, machine learning and AI, productivity is now very much in the domain of machines. Humans will prosper not by becoming more productive, but by becoming more creative.

This change will lead to major shifts in how we work and what we work with. The most important apps in our workday won’t be the ones that help us gather data or crunch numbers or manage accounts more quickly. They’ll be the ones that help us express an idea more persuasively, craft a social post more engagingly, personalise our fashion or build a more elegant interface. Rewards will accrue not for working fast, but for making something uniquely effective.

For millennia, our quest as humans has been to be more productive. But in 2020 this quest will become pointless. The best bet when you need more productivity will be almost always to turn to machine learning and artificial intelligence. We will hit what I call the Productivity-Creativity Inversion: where the return on human energy spent on creativity exceeds that spent on productivity. With technology taking care of productivity, we humans will produce value by doing what only we can do: thinking and acting creatively, producing something entirely new.

As humans’ roles change, so will their tools. There are already lots of great apps for professionals whose main job is creativity – Adobe’s Creative Cloud products (which I oversee), Affinity, Figma, Black Magic and so on. As the volume of creative work increases, those tools will have to adapt to make it easier to create anywhere, to share your work and collaborate with others.

And the demand for these tools will go beyond the traditional creative industries. Marketers who have never studied design already know that their social posts have to look great to get noticed. Knowledge workers know that a better infographic sells their point of view. Kids are building entire worlds in games such as Fortnite or Minecraft. Fashionistas want what they buy to be modified by artists just for them. And, in response, companies are rushing to build tools for these creators who don’t have the background and time to master complex software. These already include Adobe Spark, Canva, Lightricks and Photoshop Express – and more are launching every month.

AI will play a role here too. Even creative pros spend about half their time on non-creative tasks – searching for stock images or removing a distracting pole from video footage. AI can take over those tasks, giving professionals time for more fulfilling – and lucrative – creativity-intense work. And AI will help us non-professionals complete tasks and apply techniques that we don’t otherwise have the training or the eye to master.

The shift from a productivity-based economy to a creativity-based economy is huge and it will undoubtedly disrupt the careers of many people. Ultimately, though, it will be a positive change. While there is satisfaction in becoming more productive, in the end, you’re just a better cog in a faster machine. The rewards of creativity are far different: self-expression, connection with others, even joy. In the era of creativity, GDP will measure not just raw economic output. It will measure happiness.

Scott Belsky is chief product officer for Adobe Creative Cloud

This article was originally published by WIRED UK

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