In the wake of the recession, job security and unemployment rates are topics of major concern. On the other hand, an increasing number of firms are, for one reason or another, unable to fill numerous key positions. In the past month, I have had the privilege of attending a few different business events highlighting these topics from the perspectives of some very powerful people. Interestingly, the events featured speakers who all stressed the need for STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in the United States.
As economics courses have always told us, the market must take care of itself, and STEM-based employees should see job security and higher demand for recruits. While these trends may be coming true, many employers feel education systems in our country are simply outdated and irrelevant. I believe these concerns are valid, but I would like them to hear some of their own advice. Let’s not be reactive, but instead proactive and forward thinking.
Though I was unable to grab a microphone and present the question at either event, I kept thinking to myself, “How do we address the importance of creativity? Shouldn’t we stress it?”
On November 14, 2012, I was fortunate enough to attend a very interesting Executive’s Club of Chicago event. Ellen Kullman, CEO of DuPont, was the featured speaker at the event, and she seemed to stress the need for STEM education. She described her company and the amazingly innovative solutions it continues to invest in while crediting the highly technical aptitudes of the company’s R&D departments. It’s almost impossible to argue with the continued success and socially responsive efforts the company is characterized by. I would, however, like to point out one small detail. Before taking the stage, boasting an impressive engineering background and endorsing the emphasis on STEM education, an introduction read that Ellen began her tenure at DuPont as the marketing manager. Interesting…
I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t hire a marketing manager without some creative savvy.
There is something to be said about the need for creativity within every career, technical or not. I see this concept at work within my own company. Given my chosen path of a business education, my boss really can’t expect me to jump onto a programmer’s screen and complete forms of coding language. I truly can’t fill a programmer’s shoes at all, but it isn’t just because of the technical training I would need. There is a certain creative intuition our programmers use to produce exceptional applications. They visualize solutions and solve problems in ways that go much deeper than trial and error. This intuition is not so simply derived from a strict focus on their technical education and understanding of techniques—it comes from the challenge to make life a little easier for the end user and the ability to picture the experience. These are the things that truly spark the necessary inspiration and creativity our team thrives on.
In my opinion, our company has drawn success from the notion that the technical skills and insightful ideas of our team members will interact with one another and ultimately create high-quality solutions for the customer. At DRD, we are constantly challenged to take what we learn about clients and turn that knowledge into functioning ideas to best portray their brand (in marketing) or to help them operate more efficiently (in application development). I strongly believe this needs to be a core value in any competitive organization and in our education systems alike. Without a fresh idea, you will no doubt become part of the noise that comes with our commercially cluttered world.
Jim Merritello is a market research strategist who regularly contributes his insight on marketing trends, business cultures and consumer personas.