Monday, December 5, 2011

Why Arts (Creative) Education is Critical for Talent Development

A 2010 IBM study of their 1500 global CEO’s on Capitalizing on Complexity showed that Creativity is the most important leadership quality, according to these CEOs. Standouts practice and encourage experimentation and innovation throughout their organizations. Creative leaders expect to make deeper business model changes to realize their strategies. To succeed, they take more calculated risks, find new ideas, and keep innovation in how they lead and communicate. Read the full report .

You see more and more reports indicating that creativity is a critical issue facing our world – and that there is a serious lack of it throughout the business environment. Check out the current issues of Fast Company magazine on How to Lead a Creative Life and Entrepreneur magazine's State of the Creative Nation.  No wonder we celebrate and even venerate the life of Steve Jobs, because he demonstrated a heart and soul connection to his personal creativity that we don’t see too many other places, and many of us feel is missing within our own lives. So – you would think with all of this concern about our ‘creative capital’ we would be increasing our commitment to arts education, not pulling further away from it, right? What is wrong with this picture?

I think we have both a communication issue as well as an outcomes issue. First, the  communication issue is that despite decades of research showing the positive personal and academic impact of arts education, we haven’t moved the needle in terms of school curriculum strategy, educational budgets or civic and corporate commitment. So, let’s stop using the same language because no one has been seriously listening for years. Second, the arts at their core are about expressing and experiencing creativity. Creativity is something the business community is crying out for, but instead of talking about the arts building creativity skills we focus on not eliminating the arts curriculum specialists. We need to start talking about developing the creative skill set of students as a workforce development outcome of these arts experiences and stop isolating the study of the arts, no matter how intrinsically valuable we believe they are. The conversation has moved on and now so must we.

As part of a local grant exploring reframing arts education as creative education, I am talking with senior HR professionals on how and where they include looking for creativity skills in their talent entry and talent development. To a person, they do look for it upon entry and they do proactively develop it in their leadership programs. Now, having said that, they have NOT connected experience in the arts as an indicator of a creative skill set – it’s not on their radar screen. Here is the opportunity - connecting artistic experiences with the development and assessment of creativity skills will provide a pathway to the arts making a serious contribution to enhancing the creativity of tomorrow’s talent.

If we want to optimize our innovation potential, we need to maximize our community’s creative capital and ignite all of our imaginations. The arts are incredibly well positioned to make a significant contribution to bringing more creativity into the workforce if we are willing to reframe our conversation. Let’s start that new dialogue now.

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