It’s a given that the world of work will look quite different in the future. And while no-one knows for sure what to expect, there’s plenty of guess work. Alarmists paint a sci-fi picture of a jobless society, where automation will take over and make everyone redundant – think driverless cars, robotics for farming, and 3-D printing, all on a colossal scale.

More optimistic forecasters believe there will be plenty of work available, but we won’t know what form it will take, or what new occupations there will be, for some time.

A uniting factor for both camps is there is strong evidence to suggest that, whatever the future brings, creative thinking will be a highly sought-after skill.

Specialists in education are already predicting that creative mindsets, resilience and adaptability will be important for the future workforce. The days of workers absorbing information and following guidelines will be a thing of the past. Instead, employers will be searching for blue-sky thinkers who can conjure up new ideas – effectively from a blank canvas. Just look at the innovation behind the tech startups and companies like Uber.

According to Carterton’s Heidi Holbrook (pictured on the right), this skill shift won’t just be limited to the workforce. In time, it will also apply to whole communities. Heidi, as the director of Kokomai Creative Festival – a 10-day explosion of artistic and creative events occurring throughout Wairarapa every two years – foresees that schools, businesses, and other organisations will start to draw more on the arts as a source of inspiration to develop future-focused creative thinking.

“The arts in whatever shape – a performance, a film, an exhibition, a class or an experience – help develop creativity,” Heidi says.

“Ask yourself: how often you feel inspired, motivated or uplifted after going to a show? If you increase your exposure to creativity, and then broaden that exposure, you will find that your own creative side starts to unlock.”

Out-of-the-box thinking needs to be stimulated, Heidi says – and Kokomai is about giving Wairarapa people little tastes and bursts of artistic inspiration, whether they live in Mangatainoka or Martinborough. It also breaks down traditional perceptions that art is for the elite. Instead, with around 60 events on offer between October 13 and 22 this year, it pitches art and creativity as something for everyone.

By reaching right across the region, the festival also acts as a conduit for our expansive province, connecting people and bringing communities closer together, strengthening bonds as it goes.

“Collaboration, connection and social interaction are also important factors in the promotion of creative thinking,” Heidi says. “And we’re not surprised that Kokomai’s interactive events and workshops are proving increasingly popular.

“People like to interact, they enjoy it. Digital technology is encouraging us all to be literally ‘hands on’ in our communication and our learning. It’s changing the way we do things and giving us the confidence to experiment.”

Certainly, there is a growing swing towards audiences moving away from being passive viewers. They want, instead, automated participation. They want seats that come with headphones, and a downloadable app that enhances the events they attend. They don’t just want to observe, they want to ‘experience’. They want the real footage that video mapping provides, they want 3D, and they want to open real or virtual doors and visit new places.

“Creativity is all about exploring and trying things out,” Heidi says.

“If the future is going to require us to excel in this area, then we need to be providing as many opportunities as possible for people to experiment now. Kokomai is our contribution.”