Innovation and the Arts: The Value of Humanities Studies for Business

Cover of Innovation and the Arts: The Value of Humanities Studies for Business

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(12 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xv
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Abstract

We live in the Age of Knowledge, which is impelling us towards the Age of Imagination. The technological wave rises and with it rises a wave of change that will affect both the economy and society. When these two waves will reach the coast where knowledge meets ignorance, and how to ride them, are questions that require us to imagine the future. We must, therefore, embark on the vessel of imagination, leaving behind us the baggage of what we know and understand. Imagination is not just the springboard for ideas; it also acts to connect ideas in different ways that may blossom in the garden of an entrepreneurial renaissance. Symbols, metaphors and concepts that belong to our tacit knowledge come to light in our memory. It is from here that the imagination draws its lifeblood, broadening our horizons, inducing us to interact with others who may be the bearers of other cultures. Are we ready to engage in an imaginative learning process to join business with innovation and art? Are we prepared to design a wide-open white space where the actors of entrepreneurship, innovation and art can generate a constructive tension that will sweep away what appears to be mutual antagonism or incompatibility?

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This chapter addresses relevant academic discourses and theory development in the cross-disciplinary fields where the arts and business meet. Three specific discourses are investigated: the arts for business, the arts with business and the arts’ disruptive business (or against business). The manner of the investigation reflects the overall tone and approach of this book in that it includes an introductory review of the relevant literature as a means of distilling the key themes and theories that have emerged in this research field. The chapter will thus also add some reference value to the key questions of academic debate about the arts and businesses: where have we come from and where are we now? Some speculation on ‘where we are going’ is also included.

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Antonioni, Berger, Magritte and Sontag, with their respective challenges to our perceptions of what is real and unreal, set the scene for a discussion of the tension between current policies and norms in higher education systems and the increasingly important need to introduce true interdisciplinarity in university programmes – specifically, here, with regard to the role of the humanities in business-related courses. It is argued that uncertainty and imperfection are key signposts to creativity and innovation. Uncertainty demands the constant search for possibility; imperfection provides the constant opportunity to improve and is therefore the inspiration for innovation. In an exploration focussing principally on the various potentialities of the study of literature, it is suggested that many initiatives to introduce the arts into non-humanities programmes have a common and significant limitation in that they are defined by a specific purpose – by an understandable and, in our current higher education environments, an inevitable need to specify what ‘impact’ the intervention will have on the skills and employability of the student. However, something much more radical is needed if what George Eliot called the ‘vital connections of knowledge’ are to be truly made, and the radical adjustment required runs directly counter to a culture that is dominated by the compulsion to demonstrate impact, set measurable targets and prioritize practical application.

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An inexorable pursuit of economic gain has ushered in fashionable, entrepreneurial manoeuvres in the arts. This has led not only to the acceptance of new sectoral categories, such as the creative industries, but also to a form of creative industrialization that encourages additive injections of market logic and notions of entrepreneurial value to an erstwhile dependent culture of the arts. Normative silo-based analyses continue unabated in the gnostic worlds of both the arts and entrepreneurship, with a tendency for the latter to ‘rescue’ the ‘failing’ arts. Application of market logic can, however, ignore the multivalence of entrepreneurship or the rich textures of meaning provided by the arts. It is suggested that a consideration of the centrality of imagination offers insights into different forms of value creation in entrepreneurship and of the creative entrepreneurial dimensions in the arts. A review is presented of how entrepreneurship has positioned itself in the arts and questions are raised about the constraints of a market logic approach. It is argued that such an approach promotes a deficit model of the arts and a stagnant, status quo understanding of entrepreneurship. By exploring various arts movements, such as the Bauhaus project, the legacy of Joseph Beuys’s philosophy and the unique, needs-focussed work of the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, creative latitude can be found in the meaning of entrepreneurship as the mobilization of the resources of imagination.

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Recent efforts to go beyond gross domestic product as a measure of economic performance raise important questions about the nature of the economy, including: what is the best measure of a sound, flourishing economy, and what is the purpose of ‘doing well’ in economic terms? One possible measure of the soundness of an economy is the extent to which it results in better lives for humans – a thought that has inspired measures such as the Human Development Index, among others. In the bigger picture, a sound, flourishing economy should also be consistent with good, and perhaps optimal, lives for non-humans, and well-functioning ecosystems. On this measure, economics should not be an altogether anthropocentric enterprise. To go beyond anthropocentric notions of economic performance, a degree of integration between economics, philosophy and biology is required, with Umwelt theory and biosemiotics indicating a way forward. A merely economic outlook can easily lead to the commodification of each and every organism and natural resource, thus neglecting the agency, interests and intrinsic value of animals and other non-humans. To truly ‘serve all’ in an Anthropocene-era world, where the living conditions of practically all organisms on the planet are affected by human economic activities, economists need to acknowledge that there are economic stakeholders beyond humans. This would make economics more compatible with current outlooks in normative ethics with regard to the value of animals, biodiversity, etc., and could be part of a radical reconceptualization of the nature of the economy, in which economic value is situated within value theory in a wider sense.

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In The Great Derangement, the Indian writer Amitav Ghosh examines the present inability to understand and represent the scale and violence of the environmental crisis. The book is a passionate awakening call for collective action to drive change, with Ghosh clearly identifying the limits of the present framework of values, which inhibits politicians, industrialists and economists from moving towards a truly sustainable civilization. In the Anthropocene, non-human and post-human factors are raising questions about the concept of a silent Nature that can be domesticated for human advantage and the perspective of continuous progress – both of which have dominated the modern age. Nevertheless, the detailed scientific analysis of the violation of the planet’s limited capacities continues to be refuted, triggering irrational, short-term utilitarian behaviours which are preventing the fundamental changes required for the transition to sustainable development. Artists, philosophers and writers can play an invaluable role in reframing our ways of thinking, filling the gap between scientific knowledge and emotional perception. Pioneering artistic experiments are appearing all over the world, from both well-established and emerging artists, and through collective processes, and this cultural movement is setting the scene for a new wave of eco-entrepreneurs driven by the altruistic mission of saving the planet. As has happened in many previous crises, it is again in the hands of artists to redefine how we perceive ourselves and so to support the emergence of new ideas, new learning, and finally to shape society and the economy around a renewed sense of the future for humankind on Earth.

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Creativity is a critical skill across disciplines and contexts, and it is an important trait for humans to survive and thrive, personally and collectively. The fast-paced culture of business innovation has sought to promote and reward creativity as a coveted thinking skill. Creativity in and of itself, however, is a value-neutral construct, because novel and effective ideas may also have negative consequences. This darker aspect of creativity has come to the forefront in many recent cases, particularly in contexts involving digital and networking technologies, where the rapid pace of technological change does not encourage the kind of deliberative thinking necessary for nuanced and ethical business decisions. The authors consider why education is essential for expanding the ethical capacity of creative agency in business, describing the need to bring creativity and ethics together in educational opportunities and cultural values. The authors explore the idea of ‘wise creativity’ and the need to infuse more human-centred learning from the arts and humanities into business fields. Further, the authors suggest better practices for creative business education, such as: infusing real-world ethics learning into business education and professional development; infusing the liberal arts curriculum in business; offering opportunities for arts-based approaches in business learning; and instilling genuine mindfulness training in business education environments. The authors’ focus is on a shift away from a culture that values creativity purely as an instrumental approach for greater profitability, and towards one that values wise and humanizing creativity for good business practices that consider societal and individual wellbeing.

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In today’s hypercompetitive, digital-first, knowledge-based economy, organizational creativity has never been more important as a potential source of competitive advantage. The foundation stone for every innovation is an idea and all ideas are born of creativity. The innovation process thus starts with creativity and the new ideas it yields are ideally based on insights that will lead ultimately to novel outcomes (such as new products, services, experiences or business models) and thereby to a sustainable competitive advantage. In established businesses, until relatively recently, creativity was called on only for specific, often high-profile occasions, for ‘hackathons’ or for major ‘innovation jams’, but today it is an essential, everyday necessity of routine work. However, attaining the right level of creativity from within is a challenge for many organizations and so they need to establish an appropriate and effective way to import it into their teams, projects and, ultimately, culture. The arts are a pure, unadulterated form of creativity. Mindsets, processes and practices from the arts can give organizational creativity a significant boost and can potentially offset the creative deficit in an organization. Here, the illustrative cases and practices that demonstrate how the arts can have a positive impact on business are examined.

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Why should businesses invest in the arts? Why ‘sing for your supper’ when you can earn much more by coding? In an era when artificial intelligence (AI) is forecast to eliminate millions of jobs, many educators and policy-makers advocate scientific, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education as the solution to future unemployment. They envision a workforce of diligent coders who automate everything, including their own jobs. While useful for finding tech jobs today, this myopic approach ignores the coming ‘Cambrian explosion’ of content and services that are being catalysed by exponential technologies. In Silicon Valley, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality are already being applied to surgery, warehousing, retailing, architecture, construction, cars, therapy and concerts. Top VR managers and developers come from the social sciences and humanities, which provide the analytical and social skills for understanding customers and identifying new use cases and business models. STEM alone cannot answer the complex ethical and policy issues facing businesses: companies need employees with ‘soft skills’ who can integrate STEM with the arts (STEAM). In Silicon Valley today, the most challenging jobs are going to people who can offer practical answers to bottom-line questions about the value of social, cultural and artistic soft skills. What is the value of the arts for business growth? What can businesses learn from the creative industries? How can return on investment in the arts be measured? How will STEAM and exponential technologies enable new business models? How can STEAM education prepare people for the AI era?

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Among the key challenges facing today’s business organizations is that of ongoing innovation for survival. To meet this challenge, new skills for effective leadership are required: knowledge workers need to be creative and entrepreneurial. Leading them, however, can be like ‘herding cats’. The classic metaphor of the organization as a machine does not offer an effective approach to leading complex human organizations. New thinking is needed, such as complexity theory, which considers the organization as a living organism and so provides a basis for innovative approaches to organizational structure and management. In this context, performing arts organizations can be a fruitful source of leadership inspiration. Performing arts organizations have never adopted the concept of the organization as machine and have therefore managed to keep alive the passion of their people. Thus these organizations constitute a valuable example for managers in the Knowledge Age, who must replace traditional leadership approaches to attract, keep and grow talent. Here, a case study is presented in which the authors, including the conductor Maestro Roni Porat, decode the key success factors in conducting an orchestra and consider their transferability to talent management in business organizations. While setting the tone, the conductor gives each of the players a chance to shine and co-evolve with the rest, thus creating a winning harmonic orchestra.

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Index

Pages 217-225
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Cover of Innovation and the Arts: The Value of Humanities Studies for Business
DOI
10.1108/9781789738858
Publication date
2020-02-19
Editors
ISBN
978-1-78973-886-5