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Creativity key to innovation, says CA Technologies CEO

With automation an increasing concern, soft skills such as creativity will be essential for successful innovation, says CEO of CA Technologies

Creativity in the technology industry is key to innovation and success, according to Mike Gregoire, CEO of CA Technologies.

At the opening keynote of the 2017 CA Technologies event, Gregoire said “to innovate successfully, you have to set creativity free”.

He added that many firms put too much focus on the operation of the business, but this cannot succeed on its own without innovation as “balancing innovation and creativity leads to success”.

With automation becoming an increasing concern across many industries, it is thought that people with softer skills, such as creativity and empathy, will help to defend against the effects of automation.

The computing curriculum was rolled out across the UK in 2014 to teach young people skills such as coding in a bid to fuel the future tech talent pipeline.

However, many believe the future of the technology industry will progressively involve more creativity, and Gregoire said developing software and digitising processes is “legally considered a form of art” in some places, adding that “software is the creative medium of our age”.

The ability to automate routine tasks during the software engineering process is making many roles in the technology industry easier. According to Gregoire, everyone has the tools needed to tackle everyday tasks, making it vital to “compete on code” to get ahead – something that can be more easily achieved with a creative approach.

“You cannot develop systems or new applications without a massive amount of creativity,” he said, adding that it is important to find “art in life and in work” to encourage a work-life balance, as “innovative people will follow what interests them”.

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As well as creativity, taking risks is becoming an important aspect of innovation as technology drives disruption.

Knowing when to take risks or when to hold back on decisions is now part of the technology industry, and Gregoire said this is driven by “the technologists, those who are not afraid to take that risk”.

He said playing it safe can often “be the most risky decision you can make”, and that innovation comes from “desire, collaboration and taking risks – things you will not find in a two-inch thick user manual”.

Parallels between extreme sports and the tech industry

One of the main issues in the technology is a lack of diversity, with very few people from minority groups joining and staying in the industry, despite diversity making teams more productive and successful.

Jimmy Chin, a mountaineer and skier, talked about the correlations between the technology industry and extreme sports such as mountain climbing. He said that when he first started the sport, there were also fewer women in the field – much like in the technology industry.

Many women who leave the technology industry or choose to leave the space cite a lack of role models as a reason for these choices, and Chin said it was the role models in the extreme sports space that had not only encouraged more women into the area, but commanded more respect from the men in the field.

“There have been some incredible role models in our industry that really opened up people’s eyes – and I don’t just mean for young women and girls who needed a good role model, it kind of shifted everything for the guys as well,” he said.

There are many influences – including parents, teachers and other role models – that will determine what career children choose to pursue. Chin spoke about how his choice of career had been different to what his family expected of him, saying that it seemed like the only careers available to him were as a doctor or an executive.

In the technology industry, many believe collaboration between education providers, government and the sector is one of the only ways the depth, breadth and skills required of tech roles can be communicated to parents and children so they can make more informed choices about their future jobs.

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