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Impact of Innovation on Writing in the Creative Economy,

by David Hailey, Matthew Cox and Emily Loader.

Abstract

We evaluate forty-five jobs professional communicators might occupy. Specifically, we examine the impact of creativity on careers that may become more or less easily outsourced domestically or offshore in the future. We are unable to find any particular relationship between creativity, per se, and job security. Instead, we find that people with knowledge of the processes required for innovation are more valued by industry than those recognized as creative. We suggest that to be prepared for the evolution of the global economy, technical communicators and their educators should understand “innovation” in its formal context and be able to apply that knowledge in their workplaces and classrooms.

INTRODUCTION

In a poll of a group of twenty professional writing colleagues, examining the topic of outsourcing and offshoring, five of them (25%) had seen their companies attempt to offshore documentation projects in the past year. Although some of these offshore experiments went badly, the group generally agreed that many of the failures were attributable to startup problems.

After several months of examining the profession, the general consensus of this group is that if software programming goes to a remote site with an English-speaking population, there are few valid reasons production of its entire communications package cannot follow. This conclusion is in keeping with arguments presented by Prashant Natarajan and Makarand Pandit [1], JoAnn and William Hackos [2], Ron and Anil Hira [3], Thomas Friedman [4], Lou Dobbs [5] and others who variously claim, “Any activity where we can digitize and decompose the value chain, and move it around, will get moved around” [4, p. 13], or more bluntly, “anything that can be digitized can be outsourced to either the smartest or cheapest producer or both” [4, p. 12].

Given that virtually all communications can be digitized, it is reasonable to believe that in the future more and more professional communications positions will be outsourced and may move overseas (offshored). Some of the authors discussing the topic of offshoring predict gloom (e.g., Dobbs and the Hiras), while others suggest the problem is of limited scope -- that the informed employee can and should adjust (e.g., Hayhoe [6]; Alexander et al, [7]; Pink [8]; Murphy [9] Bekins and Williams [10], Hackos and Hackos [2]). Some (e.g., Junhua and Baake [11],) even suggest that outsourcing and offshoring is a phenomenon that can be valuable to those prepared to take advantage of it. But what does “take advantage of it” mean? To answer that question, one should understand the many dynamics of our profession – or, stated more accurately, “professions.”

In our observation no one has dissected the various communication professions to see what might make specific jobs more or less vulnerable. Moreover, although many authors suggest that being creative or innovative is important in the new, global economy, their descriptions of “creative” and “innovation” tend to be vague and slippery (e.g, Pink [7], Bekins and Williams [9]).

In this article we carefully define “creative” and “innovative,” and we examine forty-five technical communication careers to determine the extent to which being creative or innovative protects employees. We conclude that the most secure jobs all involve employees who make strategic decisions and solve strategic problems that lead to commercially viable innovations, but these people may not be particularly creative. In a sense, the “new creative economy” discussed by some scholars may be quite old.

In The World Is Flat, Tomas Friedman suggests that Americans have thrived in a creative economy for the past 200 years: “[I]t is our ability to constantly innovate new products, services, and companies that has been the source of America’s horn of plenty and steadily widening middle class for the last two centuries” [4, p.253]. In the end, our study implies that in the global economy, communication professionals and educators should acquaint themselves with the formal meaning of “innovation” and adjust their professional behavior and instruction accordingly, with that in mind, we conclude with step-by-step instructions on innovative design adapted from engineering design techniques. These instructions can be applied in the classroom or workplace