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Bringing Creative Arts Programs to Business

June 11, 2012

Last weekend, Americans for the Arts, a national arts advocacy organization, held its annual conference in San Antonio, Texas. American Express sponsored the preconference sessions aimed at emerging leaders in the arts sector as well as the Emerging Leaders Award, which was presented to Adam Natale, Director of Partnerships and Business Development for Fractured Atlas, a national arts service organization.

During the conference, there were several sessions devoted to the topic of arts and business partnerships. I moderated such a session, entitled "Bringing Creative Arts Programs to Business." My fellow panelists were Barbara Spradling, Director of the Innovation Institute at the McColl Center for Visual Art in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Michael Gold, Founder and President of Jazz Impact in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

When most of us think about the arts, we immediately think of classical music or theater or dance or opera or painting or sculpture. Some of us think of film or photography or literature or jazz. Perhaps some even think of television or computer graphics or pop music. But, it's probably a good bet that few people think about what impact the arts or arts-based training can have on business.

Yet, according to Working Beyond Borders, an IBM study of more than 700 chief human resources officers worldwide conducted in 2010, HR executives believe that there are three key workforce gaps:

  • Cultivating creative leaders who can nimbly lead in complex global environments
  • Mobilizing for greater speed and flexibility producing significantly greater capability to adjust underlying costs and faster ways to allocate talent, and
  • Capitalizing on collective intelligence through much more effective collaboration across increasingly global teams.

And, from an additional IBM Survey, Capitalizing on Complexity, of more than 1,500 chief executive officers worldwide in 2010, these CEOs say:

  • More than rigor, management discipline, integrity or even vision, successfully navigating an increasingly complex world will require creativity.

At the same time, a recent MTV Scratch Survey of Millennials (people born between 1981 and 2000), found that:

  • By 2020, Millennials will make up 50% of the workforce
  • 40 million are already in the workforce
  • 61% expect flexible work schedules
  • 71% believe they are "too talented to just sit in a cubicle or punch a clock," and
  • 33% believe they will be (not wish they were) famous

So, businesses appear to be looking for solutions to cultivating and attracting creative workers and leaders, and they need the tools to address an increasingly diverse workforce that wants flexible work schedules that don't require just sitting in a cubicle.

These sound like issues that can be helped by arts organizations and arts-based training.

Barbara Spradling spent more than 20 years as a senior vice president at Bank of America where she led the execution of large domestic and global enterprise efforts specifically in the areas of operations, technology, finance and risk. The Innovation Institute helps business executives unleash their creative abilities and those within their organizations. Innovation Institute participants work with professional artists and facilitators to explore topics like "Unlocking the Creative Voice," "Pushing the Edge" and "The Value of Failure."

Michael Gold has held senior management positions in the real estate and financial services industries, holds a Ph.D. in jazz performance, and he created and ran Vassar College's first jazz program. As head of Jazz Impact, he develops and conducts interactive seminars that bring together the two worlds of jazz and business. Michael's expertise is in creating customized training sessions that reinforce team-building, problem solving, and other management skills by drawing on the lessons of jazz.

Barbara and Michael shared their thoughts about what arts-based training is and what businesses can learn from the arts. They also discussed how to operationalize an arts-based training program (i.e., what kind of business model is required, who are potential clients, how to market your services), and what some of the key challenges there are to success (like how to make money).

Participants left with a sense that it's possible for local arts organizations to develop programs and services that help businesses engage and inspire their employees by boosting creativity and innovation in the workplace.

If you have any other examples of creative approaches to these issues, please let us know by clicking here.

P.S. Did you know that the Millennial Generation is 80 million strong in the United States, which is 40% larger than Generation X?


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