Creativity at Work Newsletter, Jan 2009

Arts Based Learning

Harvard University recently published a task force report on a New Vision for the Arts. The report says while the arts may be everywhere on campus, they are also conspicuously marginal.

The vitality of artistic activity on campus is rendered nearly invisible to the Harvard and local community by the lack of a centralized listing of readings, performances, screenings, and exhibitions. It is a typical and frequent experience for anyone vitally interested in the arts here to learn a day or a week after the event that something remarkable has occurred and is now over. And, more deeply we have, in relation to the arts, failed to foster a sense of urgency. What is missing—what the university has yet sufficiently to recognize and to broadcast—is a sense that the arts matter, and not just for one’s private pleasure, but for one’s public person and career.

The university wants to take the arts out of the sidelines and make it more central to education.

To allow innovation and imagination to thrive on our campus, to educate and empower creative minds across all disciplines, to help shape the twenty-first century, Harvard must make the arts an integral part of the cognitive life of the university: for along with the sciences and the humanities, the arts—as they are both experienced and practiced—are irreplaceable instruments of knowledge.

Yes, the arts matter in business, society and culture and I’m glad Harvard sees the light.


Culture of success: European schools introduce arts subjects to management curriculum


“Our mission is to be a service for companies [and] the companies say that now they need people with general culture and general knowledge,” says Jean-François Fiorina, director of the Grande-Ecole section at Grenoble.

“The companies don’t want super-technicians. They are going to face complex situations and for that they need students who have the theory to think and propose some solutions for the financial crisis.”

This sentiment is reflected across Europe and indicates a drive for more rounded business graduates. Last year Madrid’s IE Business School introduced humanities to the core curriculum on the MBA. Students do a two-week “launch” module at the start of their course which includes an introduction to moral philosophy, eastern and western civilisations and modern art. Copenhagen Business School offers a two-year Masters in business, language and culture, as well as an MSc in social science that focuses on the creative business process. It runs a similar programme in partnership with SDA Bocconi, the Italian business school.

Ken Starkey, professor of management and organisational learning at Nottingham university Business School, believes that business schools need to think about how management education has contributed to the philosophy behind the excesses of the last two decades. He has written a paper on the need for change with the French school, Ecole des Mines de Paris.

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