Future skills and the Creative Economy – Impressions of Nesta’s event “Acting Now for Future Skills”

Hello Macers! In November, you welcomed me in your Mapping in the Creative Economy class to discuss the future of work in the creative economy. Thank you for the warm reception and high-level discussions. Recently, I attended Nesta’s event “Acting now for future skills” where policymakers, educators, students, private and non-profit organisations gathered to debate several topics in relation to the future of work, education and much more. It’s my pleasure to share my impressions with you.

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Nesta’s Event “Acting now for future Skills” at the Milbank Tower. Photo Celina Schlieckmann

Firstly, for those who missed the session on November 10th, we’ve talked about the skill sets needed to thrive in the new economy, creative entrepreneurship, new mindsets and how the fourth industrial revolution is changing the way we see the world and is making us rethink the way we want to live. As Klaus Schwab said in the WEF’s documentary: “One of the features of this 4th industrial revolution is that it doesn’t change what we are doing, it changes us.”. In this context, I presented my personal research project where I investigated the relationships between creativity and business. In “the skill sets for the new economy in the creative industries: a comparative study between Brazil and the UK”, I investigated business knowledge as a resource to commercialise ideas by creative professionals and pointed the challenges and opportunities of working in the CE nowadays and looking into the future.

Nesta’s event “Acting Now For Future Skills” took place in the Milbank Tower for a whole day on the 30th of November with an amazing programme including themes such as education, artificial intelligence, collaborative problem solving, knowledge, skills, designing policies and successful case studies. It was great to see what the main agents of the creative economy are discussing about the future of work and education in the UK’s creative economy. They kicked-off by commenting about the ‘buzz’ of artificial intelligence and how much time we spend discussing ‘how robots will take our jobs’, while we should be working on how we are preparing the workforce with the ‘21st Century skills’ (social and cognitive skills). For this reason, they stressed that the event was about hope and positivity.

The workforce was approached in three fronts: (i) Schools: children who will be working in 2020; (ii) Universities: combining knowledge and skills programmes and (iii) Continue learning: people who are working already and need to learn new skills and adapt for the future. You can watch the first part below and the main topics discussed below:

Skills and Knowledge
In the debate between skills and knowledge, they’ve acknowledged the importance of both but, most of all the need to strike a balance between them. There was reminder that ‘skills’ today does not mean digital skills necessarily, it includes skills in general. In fact, the so called ‘soft skills’ were in the spotlight and so were the difficulties of learning, teaching and testing them. The crowd appeared to conclude that soft skills are in fact very hard and that they should be valued, not tested in parallel to acquiring knowledge and other skills.

Reinventing the craft of teaching
No, this has nothing to do with robots going to class but methodologies and resources to prepare kids to a different world that we live in today. This includes teaching values, attitudes, how to create impact, tackle problems and collaborate. Yet, most of them feel there is not much room for experimentation in these early stages and worry since changes in this area might take decades to understand what works.

Oli de Botton, one of the founders of School 21 showcased the cutting-edge London school. They prioritise the head (think), the heart (humanity) and the hands (do) in all activities. I was amazed by their beliefs and logic: simple, clear and connected to recent and future changes. For him, learning is about transformation, not replication, with a higher purpose: empower children. He supports less bureaucracy and regulations by the government (that should be restricted to regulate the standardised tests) to leave more room for schools to implement and test new methodologies.

Collaboration and Problem Solving
Promote diffusion of ideas and work together to support reforms, collaboration and problem-solving activities were unanimous within the main agents present. The government want to collaborate with the private sector and educational institutions sharing knowledge and being opened to develop alternatives. As an example, Google presented Google Digital Garage, a project executed in collaboration with local government from Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham to share knowledge on digital skills. For them, the key is to start local, understand and adapt to each characteristic to then be able to scale up and go global. You can watch the whole discussion in the video below:

Testing and experimentation
Representatives from the public and private segments acknowledged the importance of being flexible and able to adapt to promote efficient collaborations. These partnerships are important to make mistakes and learn, build frameworks to promote more projects, measuring the impact they are generating so improvements can be made in the way.

In conclusion, act now for future skills is much more than accepting robots and adapting to a new type of work simple because, as said in the event, we make the future we want to live. Yes, changes are inevitable and so are the needs to be flexible, train cognitive skills, be creative, have a human approach, be open minded and create a routine of continuous education. No matter if you are a creative professional that needs to be doing business, a web designer that also creates apps or a doctor that need to think creatively, we can now create the conditions and shape the future we want to be living in.

I was extremely happy to be in an event of this magnitude with so many interesting people to network and discuss themes that surrounded my personal research project and my professional life after graduating from MACE. Most importantly: to validate the relevance of my study and see great opportunities for the future ahead. How about you? Any thoughts on what to you want to study next year for your dissertation?

 If you want to explore further, there are several related reports and blog posts from Nesta here. In the main page of these discussions, you can also replay all the sessions that were live streamed. The Design Council also published last week a research report “Designing a future economy” to evaluate the impact of designs skills in UK’s economy for productivity and innovation. Finally, below I also included some interesting resources that contributed for my research. Look forward to seeing you in January. Happy Holidays for everyone and a fantastic 2018 for all of us!

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References and Bibliography:

Amabile, Teresa M. (1998) ‘How to Kill Creativity’, Harvard Business Review, 76(5), pp. 76-87.

Bakhshi, H., Osborne, M., Schneider, P., and Downing, J. (2017) ‘The future of skills: employment in 2030’ Available at: https://www.nesta.org.uk/publications/future-skills-employment-2030  (Accessed: 05 November, 2017).

Bridgstock, R. (2013) ‘Professional Capabilities for Twenty‐First Century Creative Careers: Lessons from Outstandingly Successful Australian Artists and Designers’ , International Journal of Art & Design Education, 32(2), pp. 176-189.

Design Council (2017) “Designing a future economy report” Available at: https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/news-opinion/design-council-launches-designing-future-economy-report (Accessed on: 18 December, 2017).

Eikhof, D., and Haunschild, A. (2006) ‘Lifestyle Meets Market: Bohemian Entrepreneurs in Creative Industries’ Creativity and Innovation Management, 15(3), pp. 234-241.

Google Digital Garage (2017) “Get new skills for a digital world” Available at: https://learndigital.withgoogle.com/digitalgarage/ (Accessed on: 18 December, 2017).

Hagoort, G., Thomassen, A. and Kooyman, R. (2012) Pioneering minds worldwide: on the entrepreneurial principles of the cultural and creative industries: actual insights into cultural and creative entrepreneurship research. Delft: Eburon Academic Press.

Nesta (2017) “Acting now for future skills agenda” Available at: https://www.nesta.org.uk/sites/default/files/agenda_-_acting_now_for_future_skills_v4.docx.pdf (Accessed: 18/12/2017).

Nesta (2017) “Acting now for future skills: themes and discussion” Available at: https://www.nesta.org.uk/acting-now-future-skills-themes-discussion (Accessed on: 18 December, 2017).

Nesta (2017) “Acting now for future skills – The future of work: Employment in 2020” Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEMkkc5jVUo&feature=youtu.be (Accessed on: 18 December, 2017).

Nesta (2017) “Collaborative Problem Solving and the PISA tests” Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cmLnNewT1s&feature=youtu.be (Accessed on: 18 December, 2017).

Nesta (2017) “From playground to pension: Designing policy for digital skills” Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJuTVOXDrbI&feature=youtu.be  (Accessed on: 18 December, 2017).

Nesta (2017) “Solved! Making the case for collaborative problem-solving” Available at: https://www.nesta.org.uk/publications/solved-making-case-collaborative-problem-solving (Accessed on: 18 December, 2017).

Nesta (2017) ‘The Future Skills UK’ Available at: http://data-viz.nesta.org.uk/future-skills/index.html (Accessed on: 19 December, 2017).

Robison, K. (2006) ‘Do schools kill creativity?’ Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution  (Accessed: 24 October, 2017).

Robison, K. (2010) ‘Bring on the learning revolution’ Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity  (Accessed: 24 October, 2017).

RSA (2010) ‘RSA ANIMATE: Changing Education Paradigms’ Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity (Accessed: 23 November, 2017).

World Economic Forum (2016a) ‘Future of Jobs Report’ Available at: http://reports.weforum.org/future-of-jobs-2016/ (Accessed: 05 November, 2017).

World Economic Forum (2016b) ‘What is the fourth industrial revolution?” Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpW9JcWxKq0 (Accessed: 23 November, 2017).



Here’s the Dragons’ Den!

Congratulations to all our start-up teams going through the Dragons’ Den! Well done on pitching to the judges and addressing their comments. Your work shows a great deal of strength, determination and willingness to improve.

And here’s some pictures from the big day!


Dragons’ Den 2017

Teams Global Song, One Minute and Hi-Phive in action!

Teams Quintet, Yobbafic and Eatome in action!

And some tweets (and re-tweets). Hard work pays off!

The Dragons’ Den is fast approaching… Are you ready?

3 days to go! Rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse… And remember that the purpose of the Dragons’ Den is to provide you with constructive feedback on your business idea – be it a product or service. The judges have been instructed to avoid harsh comments, and instead to be fair and objective in relation to the marking criteria. Remember these? Here’s a refresh:

  1. Elevator Pitch: Did you clearly explain what you are selling, in a compelling and direct way at the start?
  2. The need or problem you are addressing, and the target group: Have you provided key information about the problem or need you have identified, and the market or group of people who experience the problem? Who will buy / use your product or service?
  3. The product/ service: Did you provide an outline of the product / service or project and how it meets the identified needs of your market segment? How does it work? What are its key features and how does it benefit the target market?
  4. Alternatives & Competitors: Did you demonstrate an understanding of who your competitors are? Did you then explain how your product or service is different from what is already available in the market? Did you also explain why customers should buy from you, rather than your competitors?
  5. Market entry: Did you explain how you will attract your first customers? How will your product/service be made available or distributed to your target market/audience? What longer term plans do you have? How do you plan to expand/grow?
  6. Overall Presentation: Did you, as a team, demonstrate excellent presentation skills needed by entrepreneurs? Will the judges remember your presentation?

And remember the ground rules and pitching tips!

Ground rules:

  • 5 minutes pitch + 10 mins. Q&A
  • No PowerPoint presentations (you can use slides only to show pictures)
  • Respect the time limit and use all time allocated

Most important tips:

  • Provide hand-outs (canvases, flyers, pictures…) and materials (business cards,
    prototypes, samples) that will remind your audience of your pitch
    and offer additional information
  • Engage your audience (and be grateful for feedback)
  • Be passionate (traction effect)
  • Have a clear team strategy for dealing with Q&A
    (do not talk over each other, decide on who answers which question area, …)
  • Dress the part

And also:

  • Do not say ‘there is no competition for this product/service’! The judges are
    going to respond: ‘Then, there is no market…’. Instead, think of substitutes!
  • Be clear about your first customer
  • Do not overstate, do not understate…

The motto is: Show, don’t tell!


Enterprise! Workshop: How to create the perfect pitch

In this workshop, you will learn practical tips on how to pitch your idea(s) more confidently as well as how to become a more confident public speaker. Communication skills are essential in all walks of life so how you present yourself and your ideas is vital. You will learn what information you should have in every presentation and be helped to create your story. You will be given the opportunity to practice your pitch during the session and obtain feedback that will help you create a compelling presentation.

Register here!


Wed 29 November 2017
16:00 – 18:00 GMT


Penryhn Road Campus, Room PRJG1007
Kingston University
Kingston Upon Thames

Theories in Practice: Part 2

This post aims to refresh your knowledge of Cultural Historical Activity (CHAT), a theoretical perspective that can be leveraged to sustain the design of products and services. CHAT was first introduced by Engeström (1987).

This theory offers a practical framework for mapping a field of activity:


According to CHAT, subjects represent their intentions as objects (i.e., objectives). To achieve these, they use instruments (tools). Subject, object, and instruments form activities that are embedded into a given community. This is regulated by rules and a division of labour.

For example: the object of the lecturer (subject) is to provide a positive learning experience for students. To this end, they use instruments (e.g., paper, pens, post-its, slides, whiteboards, Virtual Learning Environment). They follow the rules of the University (e.g., timetables) and its division of labor (e.g., among administrators, colleagues, and students). They are embedded in a larger community, such as the UK Higher Education system.

As we have discussed in class, activity systems are ridden with contradictions. These can emerge at any point along the triangle of activity. Designers should embrace contradictions, as they provide opportunities for creative action. By addressing contradictions through the design of innovative products or services, we can generate value for the community.


Identification of contradictions: In-class workshop on Activity Theory

As we are moving on to designing our business models, it is helpful to further leverage our knowledge of activity theory. Zott and Amit noted (2009; p. 5):

“Viewed as an activity system, the business model encompasses the set of activities a firm performs, how it performs them, and when it performs them. Key activities might include training, development, manufacturing, budgeting, planning, sales, and service”

Zott and Amit (2009) suggest themes that can assist in the design of the business model (or activity system). These design themes are value-creation drivers:

Novelty: The design of new activities (content), new ways of linking such activities (structure) and new ways of governing the activities (governance).

Lock In: Activities can be designed also for lock-in – i.e., to keep the users ‘attracted’ to the business model. Lock-ins are, for examples, switching costs.

Complementarity: This is achieved when activities are combined in a bundle that provides more value (as compared to each single activity).

Efficiency: an efficient activity system is designed to reduce transaction costs (e.g., by standardizing the interfaces between activities, or by integrating vertically in order to expand activities).

To stay with the Apple examples (see Theory in Practice: Part 1), ask yourself: How does Apple achieve novelty, lock-in, complementarity and efficiency through its activities?

And how can you design NICE (novel, locking-in, complementary, efficient) business models?

If you are curious about business models as activity system, read: Designing your Future Business Model: An Activity System Perspective by Zott & Amit (2009).