Art and the Evolving Corporate World

Art and the Evolving Corporate World


Now that the world is entering a new global and ever-changing era of business and commerce in the twenty-first century, new skills are becoming necessary; innovation and creativity are now buzzwords. Cutting-edge industries are turning to the arts for inspiration and guidance. State-of-the-art business schools are including arts-based learning in their management classes.


Emerging models show us that corporations are increasingly discovering that the traditional corporate way of thinking, where the needs of the institution held sway over the needs of the individual, is giving way to a new perspective on business practices and employee relationships. Employee satisfaction has never been so important; creative thinking is in demand; the bottom line and the common good are becoming counterparts. Visionary leaders of major corporations are employing ideas like right brain thinking, flow, and aesthetic organization, traditionally the domain of the artist, to encourage new ideas and business strategies. Neuroscience research and current business scholarship back this up.


The Banff Centre for Continuing Education has been providing exciting and successful arts-based learning for business managers for many years; they are pioneers in teaching people to “think outside the box” – a term now popular in business circles. MIT’s Sloan School of Management works in conjunction with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, offering innovative creative workshops aimed at promoting teamwork, communication, and problem solving. The Harvard School of Business researches new models of business innovation and modern management skills based on the artistic process. An article in their Business Review (February 2004), states that an increasing number of arts graduates are holding high corporate positions, and a master of fine arts is more valuable than an MBA. The Wall Street Journal ran a story in August, 2003 describing how corporate leaders can learn from artists: how productivity and individual self-expression are linked.


Workers now want freedom at work, not freedom from work as in the past. More and more people in our society aspire to the traditional values of the artist: to experience the freedom to be oneself, to contribute to making the world a better place, to understand and participate in their own inner lives. A new sensitivity regarding what defines a meaningful life is emerging at the same time as uncertainty about the future affects us all. As the “real” world has come to embrace a new, virtual world, so do more and more individuals seek knowledge of their personal “virtual reality”, the life just under the surface of day-to-day realities. As our private worlds and work environments continue to be interconnected and, at the same time, perceptibly affected by global events, the need for inner strength and a secure and productive workplace becomes more important. Learning to always improve the ability to focus one’s attention and use one’s time wisely is tantamount to success in these times. One way to master all of this is by becoming deeply involved in enjoyable and challenging experiences such as the engagement in artistic activity.



The confidence and skills gained from participating in an arts programme translate into better business practices, more successful outcomes and improved employee relations. As well, public performance, conflict resolution, acceptance of change and the ability to manage intercultural relations, all critical aspects of modern business, can be fostered as workshop participants learn new, creative techniques of self-expression, facilitation, and collaboration.



Austin, R. D. (working paper 2009). It Is Okay for Artists to Make Money… No, Really, It’s Okay. Harvard Business School.


Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2003). Good Business: Leadership, Flow and the Making of Meaning. Toronto: Penguin Books Canada.


Hymowitz, C. (2003). Artists Can Illustrate How to be the Leader of a Corporate Staff. The Wall Street Journal,  August 19.


Kirke, O. F. (2009). Virtuality, the Force of Art. Copenhagen Business School.


Nissley, N. (2008). University and Corporate Innovations in Lifelong Learning,

pp. 187-211. Information Age Publishing.


Pink, D. H. (2004). The MFA is the New MBA. Harvard Business Review, pp. 21-22

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