Narev calls for creatives and not just coders

CBA chief executive Ian Narev has called for a national focus on skills, collaboration and equality to spark a critical Australian education boom.

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia CEO, a father of two, told the Wired for Wonder event in Sydney yesterday that it was now “absolutely critical” for all Australians to return focus, support and energy into building an Australian education boom.

Narev said that CBA holds the fundamental view that “we can only continue to be successful if the community around us is successful for the long term.” 

“And that can only happen if we have a strong education system,” he said. “One that’s helping all our children successfully adjust to the new world that we all enjoy talking about, this picture that we all enjoy painting.”

The strength of the education system that underpins Australian communities is going to be a critical to both individual and collectived succes, he added.

“It’s absolutely critical all of us, in whatever capacity we are functioning in our day to day lives, to really be focused on education.” 


Skills, equality, collaboration

Narev urged Australians - through skills, equality and collaboration - to drive education into a shared future. However, he also warned against being entranced by the siren song of technology at the expense of human-centered strengths, like creativity and imagination as true drivers of innovation.

“In fact I worry, if anything, that too much has focused on the need to develop more people who can code. They are a critical resource but let’s not kid ourselves, we are still human beings and we’re still broader than just the skills that we need to code," he said.

“Because actually, as an employer and as a member of the community, the skill we most need to foster is creativity.” 

“My eight-year-old daughter had two wonderful experiences in the last school holidays. One was going to code camp where she came home with an ‘app’. And the other was here (The National Institute of Dramatic Art) where she came home wanting to be Cate Blanchett." 

Narev said both of those “fortunate” experiences are “critical skills” that Australia needs to harness and build into the skill sets of the next generation. He described himself as “absolutely an advocate” of the expansion of S.T.E.M to S.T.E.A.M. 

"The A is for Arts,” Narev told AB+F at the event. “And I’m absolutely an advocate of the proposition that we’re going to need more creativity to underpin innovation in our companies and our communities. We need to make sure we are developing not only outstanding coders but outstanding creative minds as well.”


Fruits of collaborative progress

According to Narev, unlocking the “natural curiosity of our children, their natural desire to ask questions, their natural desire to look at things in different ways” and fostering that to drive innovation is going to enrich Australian communities.

He said that while technology was an extraordinary catalyst for knowledge - a “wonderful enabler” - it was also a potential obstacle to universal equality.

“The major risk is that technology might also be a driver of further inequality in education outcomes between those with the resources and those without as many resources," Narev explained. “And whether you’re an executive, a member of the community or just a human being that should worry you deeply.”

Narev said the evolving cross-sector, collaborative landscape in Australia today can not only break down previously siloed knowledge, skills and innovation, but also encourage a shared responsibility. And a share in the fruits of collaborative progress. 

“We’re very clear at Commonwealth Bank that we’re not experts in education in any way shape or form. We want to leave delivery of great education to people who are experts," he said. “But we all have the ability to support them ... we all have this responsibility.

“In the world of today, the technology that we’re here to celebrate is all enabling better, more effective, efficient collaboration between schools and all the parts of the community.

“Now if we get skills right, if we get equality right and if we get collaboration right then were in a pretty rosy spot.”