Last year the World Economic Forum (WEF) published its Future of Jobs Report, forecasting the top 10 job skills required for workers to thrive by 2020, according to global chief human resources officers. 

Compared side by side to the skills identified as needed in 2015, the shifts we will experience in 2020 aren't too dramatic -- except for one skill. (I'll let you guess that as you scroll further)

The top 10 skills in 2015 were:

  1. Complex problem solving
  2. Coordinating with others
  3. People management
  4. Critical thinking
  5. Negotiation
  6. Quality control
  7. Service orientation
  8. Judgment and decision-making
  9. Active listening
  10. Creativity

The top 10 skills for 2020 will be:

  1. Complex problem solving
  2. Critical thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People management
  5. Coordinating with others
  6. Emotional intelligence
  7. Judgment and decision-making
  8. Service orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive flexibility

    The rise of creativity

    Yes, creativity, which is even above emotional intelligence. Notice it made a big jump from the No.10 spot all the way up to No. 3. But what exactly is the application of creativity in the age of bots and automation? How do we use it? And what does it mean to be creative in 2020, which is just around the corner?

    Commentary on the report speculates that we will need to become more creative to keep up with the changes in new technologies and new ways of working. And thankfully, the truth still remains: Robots cannot be as creative as humans.

    If you're nervous at the word, creativity isn't restricted to the domain of artistic, right-brain, dominant people and jobs like designers, writers, and musicians. If you've labeled yourself as a "non-creative" person, but your strength lies in problem solving and connecting the dots with seemingly disparate information, and putting the best ideas together to propose a complex new product launch with exceptional communication skills, guess what? You're a creative person.

    Most likely, you're that person whose creative juices flow best in a non-process orientation. It's when your energy levels are at their lowest and your brain is unfocused. When you least expect it, while you're having those irrelevant daydreams about sipping an umbrella drink with your toes digging into white sand -- bam! You experience a creative breakthrough and are off to the races. What robot can do that? 

    The meaning of "creativity" in the age of robots.

    By 2020 and beyond, employees will need to become adept at recognizing the kind of creative thinking (and emotional intelligence, No. 6 on the list) that different work tasks require, and making adjustments that strengthen their ability to execute these tasks.

    Samir Kapuria, senior vice president and general manager of Symantec's cybersecurity services, tells Eric J. McNulty in Strategy+Business, "We orient our teams to anticipate the future and novel attack events. We have to be creative because our enemy is constantly changing its tactics and techniques," he tells McNulty.

    Kapuria says creative thinking should be a cultural reflection of the whole organization, not just individual employees. "You need a self-evolving organization and a culture that is willing to take risks in the interest of the mission and the business," he tells McNulty. 

    In the same article, McNulty spoke to  creativity coach Julie Daley, who told him that creativity can't be forced; we need to dwell on the question -- not the answer -- and be OK with the unknown. Plainly put, don't rush to a solution! Here's Daley:

    "Everyone is creative. It is our nature. We are educated out of it. Creativity is not artistic ability. Creativity can be seen as an adventure. We are wired for adventure -- part of us still wants that. The more personally invested you are in the solution, the less possibility you will see. When you get adamant about outcomes, you exit creativity. You have to step away from the problem for a bit. That's often when the 'aha' moment comes."

    In line with WEF's findings, another research group, The Institute for the Future (IFTF), published a 2011 report stressing the importance of "novel and adaptive thinking" as a critical work skill needed in the next ten years. They define it as "proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based."

    In the report, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor David Autor says both high-skill, high-wage and low-skill, low-wage occupations will require what he calls "situational adaptability" -- the creative ability to respond to unexpected circumstances of the moment.

    "These skills will be at a premium in the next decade, particularly as automation and offshoring continue," states the report.