Mark Orrow- Whiting
Mark Orrow-Whiting
09 December, 2022

Quick on their feet: Gen Z’s need to be creative problem solvers

Quick on their feet: Gen Z’s need to be creative problem solvers - Gen Z need to be creative problem solvers

Mark Orrow-Whiting, Nord Anglia Education’s Director of Curriculum and Innovation, shares his thoughts on Generation Z’s need to be creative, to think critically, and to understand more deeply how they learn best.

One of the most striking findings from our recent look at the skills and attitudes Gen Z needs to succeed is just how essential young adults feel it is to be creative problem solvers. 

In my view, this is one of the most important skills any young professional can have in our rapidly changing world. As one Gen Z’er said, “With all the economic uncertainty, workarounds and the ability to think on your feet could be the difference between the success and failure of a business.” 

And let’s face it, Gen Z are a generation who’ve had to be quick on their feet. They’re graduating into a world full of political and economic instability, not to mention the ongoing effects of the pandemic and how the world of work is also almost unrecognisable compared to just a few years ago. Many of these young adults have graduated online and have begun their careers online — or at least in some form of a hybrid model. According to the Office of National Statistics, this is true for around 25% of workers in the UK alone

Quick on their feet: Gen Z’s need to be creative problem solvers - Gen Z need to be creative problem solvers 

Gen Z see problem solving and creativity as one way to deal with these challenges. They’re two side of the same coin — they’re ‘thinking outside the box’ skills that can help recent grads — and current students — gain new perspectives on problems. It helps them interpret, understand, empathise and, most importantly, react. 

Arguably, these skills have never been more in demand, with 1 in 2 Gen Z’ers saying problem solving is important for their personal lives. Creativity was a close runner-up behind confidence, problem-solving, and wellbeing, with 47% of respondents saying it’s vital at home. 
These skills aren’t just needed in their personal lives; around a third of people who took part in our survey said these skills are as important in their careers too. 

So why are these skills seen as important to Gen Z? 

Let’s start with creativity. Traditionally, people always think creativity means the performing arts. You need creativity to dive into artistic expression or dance on a stage, right? But our schools take this further: we believe it’s important (and central) to all parts of a child's development, and in every subject. 

The need for creativity isn’t new for Gen Z, of course. Creativity has always been important, but what’s changing are the ways education needs to respond to broader global developments and challenges. The greater the change, the more creativity is needed for students to succeed. Novel challenges require novel solutions — in a world of work where the norm is constantly in flux, the ability to come up with creative solutions is the answer. In fact, 66% of our respondents said that being creative has increased in importance since the pandemic.  

All great breakthroughs in science, engineering or art have required a great deal of creativity. Gen Z understands this all too well. As one person said, “I am a creative, so it is within my nature to be a problem solver and look at the world in a different way to others, this is important to me as I see the beauty in things that other people may not”.  

Students at Nord Anglia schools are encouraged to solve problems in their own communities. We want all our students to be changemakers to provide solutions in ways they are passionate about, and we support them to do exactly that. 

‘Thinking about thinking’

Going a bit more deeply into creativity and problem solving, one more aspect is students’ abilities to apply previous life lessons to new, and slightly different, problems and situations. Part of this is helping young people being more aware of a variety of approaches to learning and developing an understanding of which strategies work best for them in different settings. In education, this is often referred to as ‘metacognition’. 

1 in 5 Gen Z’ers told us that understanding or being self-aware of 'how I learn best and why' is important for success in their careers. When students know what kind of teaching and learning best resonates with them, they become more active participants in their own education. 


For us to offer a truly forward-thinking and modern education across our schools worldwide, we feel strongly about understanding the wants and needs of all young people so we can best meet their needs through what we teach.  

What Gen Z has told us affirms our approach to teaching and learning — young people benefit when their education focuses on their mental and physical wellbeing, builds their confidence, injects creativity into every subject, inspires them to think critically, and broadens their horizons with a global outlook. 

They — and we — see these as critical for both their personal and professional lives.