Sign up FAST! Login

Is An MFA The New MBA?

Stashed in: Economics!, Creativity, FAIL, Young Americans, CEOs, Education!, Art!, Brain, Awesome, Psychology!, @brainpicker

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

It’s common today to debate the comparative merits and economic value of various college majors, but those of us who track issues and trends around the nation’s creative economy contend that much of the comparisons miss the mark in important and fundamental ways.

But don’t just take me at my word: No less a force in global business than IBM found, in a global study of more than 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries and 33 industries, that the most important skill for successfully navigating our increasingly complex, volatile, and uncertain world is none other than creativity.

Is art school the next B-school? Hardly, though artists often possess the skills and temperament that business leaders regularly say are in short supply: creativity, resiliency, flexibility, high tolerance for risk and ambiguity, as well as the courage to fail.

Here’s what business leaders might consider in tapping talent from the creative economy:

Integrate arts on the job The arts are not just a hobby. Employees trained in the arts can draw on their creative talents and apply what they might do naturally in the studio or while recording music or making a film to the types of puzzles they deal with every day.

Arts-trained employees won’t leave their creativity at the doorstep when they join our firms or organizations. Ask them to explicitly think about puzzles using their artistic hat/lens. Invite a local theater group to work with employees on improvisation exercises to free up their creative juices. Research has shown that when people engage in improv they later generate more creative ideas to a range of issues and challenges.

Fail more often Encourage employees and students to take more risks and to stretch their creativity. Give them space and permission to fail. Figure out how to incorporate critical feedback into an ongoing process of improvement and innovation. Ask an artist to come in and run a "critical feedback" workshop for employees. Or someone with design experience to help people think about "rapid prototyping" as a way to audition new ideas. Artists understand that you need to fail often in order to succeed.

Sit with ambiguity Employees in a lot of settings should become more comfortable with ambiguity. In my classes, students writhe in pain when I give them an ambiguous assignment. They naturally want to know exactly what they need to do to get the desired grade. Not only do we as teachers and employers need to be comfortable giving work assignments where we build in ambiguity, but we need to help those we mentor learn how to begin a process or a task without knowing what the outcome will be. Again, having an artist facilitate a workshop where a creative task is emergent, shifting, and where new information requires adjustments and negotiation, would be a great first step.

They missed using the line: Is A-school the next B-school?

Permission to fail is easy to say but REALLY hard to live with.

They did indeed.  Great line.

Many people see artists as shamans, dreamers, outsiders, and rebels. In reality, the artist is a builder, an engineer, a research analyst, a human relations expert, a project manager, a communications specialist, and a salesman. The artist is all of those and more--combined with the imagination of an inventor and the courage of an explorer. Not a bad set of talents for any business challenged to innovate in a world of volatility, uncertainty, and change.

I believe it.

Here are 4 lessons an MBA might learn from an MFA:

1. How to take criticism. In a writing workshop, each writer must remain silent while others discuss his work. This rule allows him to hear what people say, rather than distracting himself by preparing his defense. Train yourself to listen openly to all criticism. Then wait until you've had a chance to reflect before deciding which suggestions to follow and which to ignore.

2. What motivates people. Everyone's mix of motives is unique and complex. The more you can intuit the secret desires that drive a person (whether a fictional character or a colleague or your boss), the better you can predict what she's going to do next. If you figure out what motivates the people who report to you, you'll be able to tailor incentives for each individual.

3. How to engage your audience. Good fiction writers know how to involve readers in acts of collaborative imagination. Readers like to be challenged -- part of the pleasure is guessing the murderer's identity before being told -- but if they can't follow the plot, they get frustrated. Companies competing in the experience economy need to get this balance right. Customers, like readers, do not like to be bored or confused. They like to feel smart and creative and listened to. That's one reason companies that involve their customers in idea generation, like Dell, Staples, and BMW, rate highly in customer loyalty.

Knowing how to keep your team engaged is an important skill for all managers, but it's critical if you want to succeed at innovation. Again, involving team members in the creative process is the key.

4. When to let go of good ideas. Or, as writers like to say, kill your darlings. An idea may be great on its own, but if it doesn't serve your larger venture, you have to be ruthless and cut it. Brilliant but misplaced ideas can derail a project or keep you from seeing bigger, better solutions. It can be almost impossible to recognize your own darlings. Writers have editors to point them out. In the business world, look for honest feedback from colleagues you trust.

(Loved #3)

Those four things take a whole career lifetime to learn!

And from way back in 2004:

<Although popularized in the 1980s by the artist Betty Edwards in her book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” the right-brain-left-brain dichotomy originated with the research of the American biologist Roger W. Sperry in the 1960s. Through studying “split brain” animals and human patients, whose brain hemispheres had been disconnected (in humans, this was done to prevent severe epileptic seizures), he found that each side of the brain plays its own role in cognition. The left side, home of the human language center, is the outspoken logical, linear half of the equation. The right side, home to spatial perception and nonverbal concepts, is the nonlinear, high-concept source of the imagination and of pleasure.

The two function cheek-by-jowl, constantly sending signals back and forth through a bundle of 200 million to 300 million nerve fibers to help balance learning, analysis and communication throughout the brain.

But now that computers can emulate many of the sequential skills of the brain’s left hemisphere — the part that sees the individual trees in a forest — the author Daniel Pink argues that it’s time for our imaginative right brain, which sees the entire forest all at once, to take center stage.>

I need to exercise my right brain more.

You May Also Like: