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Arts‐based learning at work: economic downturns, innovation upturns, and the eminent practicality of arts in business

Nick Nissley (Executive Director, at Leadership Development at the Banff Centre, Banff, Canada)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Article publication date: 6 July 2010



This article offers an up‐to‐date overview of the emergent practice of arts‐based learning in business. First, arts‐based learning is situated within the broader arts in business context as well as our present reality of the economic downturn. Then, the article shares why arts‐based learning has emerged as a new pedagogy in management education. Next, a working definition of arts‐based learning is shared as well as an exploration of how others are conceiving it. Lastly, the article turns attention to the question, what are the strengths and limitations of arts‐based learning, and suggests a couple leading‐edge management education programs that are framed by arts‐based learning approaches.


In addition to the author's expertise in arts‐based learning and his role as executive of one of the world's premier institution's of arts‐based learning in management education/leadership development, the author exchanges ideas with a number of prominent business leaders, artists and respected management educators from around the globe, whose comments about arts‐based learning in business color the ideas presented in the article – adding texture and a richer perspective.


This article directly addresses what has changed since the 2005 special edition of the Journal of Business Strategy. Of course – the economic downturn. And, now, more than ever, this article asserts, that leaders are looking to arts‐inspired creativity, as a means to realize the upside of the downturn. The article asserts an integral role for the arts to play in an organization's efforts to create a culture of innovation – which is central to business strategy in the economic downturn. More specifically, the article documents how new ways of working together in business (resultant from the continued emergence and growth of the knowledge economy) will require new ways of learning how to work together. This article suggests that arts‐based learning may offer such a new way of learning how to work together.


This article affords the reader insights to how arts‐based learning may enable your strategic actions and the innovation upturn that you're being asked to deliver.



Nissley, N. (2010), "Arts‐based learning at work: economic downturns, innovation upturns, and the eminent practicality of arts in business", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 31 No. 4, pp. 8-20.



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