Artists, Creativity and Innovation

Working on 2 thought projects:

  1. How to justify practice from an evidence-based perspective
  2. The importance of artists and artistic environments in building creative learning environments.

Patrick Dunn alerted me to an issue of The Journal of Business Strategy that explores artists and business innovation.  This is a comment I left on his blog in response to the opening article by Nessley (Arts-based learning at work: economic downturns, innovation upturns, and the eminent practicality of arts in business).

I don’t think the value of the arts can be expressed in a linear fashion as in Nissley’s examples. My belief is that many innovations do not come out of nowhere, but are expressions of a zeitgeist. That is, many different innovations in different parts of the culture share parts of an internal structure or nature. Artists are important for innovation because they live on the edge of this zeitgeist; constantly testing its forms and limits. This zeitgeist spreads across disciplines like a meme, sowing the seeds of innovation. The arts become important for business when business is exposed to this spread and can adopt portions for its own innovation. It’s the artistic environment that’s needed, exposure to the thinking of people on the edge. It should be part of the regular business environment because it may be the 100 iteration of a particular portion of the zeitgeist that finally lights the needed spark.

I think business innovators, entrepreneurs and artist are all cut from a similar mold and all can be valuable contributors to an edge environment. It is an edgy environment that is important, not a Picasso on the wall or the thousandth rendition of a Beethoven piece.

More on this after a bit more research.

A “Clean-Sheet” Perspective for Education: A Rationale Derived from Hagel and Brown

Interesting HBR article: Innovation Blowback: Disruptive Management Practices from Asia (Hagel & Brown, 2003).

Their main point

Companies offshore production to cut wages, gain access to skills and capabilities and seek new markets, but they fail to gain more than a small affluent segment of these emerging markets because they do not seek the level of innovations to target the demands of the larger low-wage market.  Long-term they then are often undercut by the local companies that do seek this level of innovation.

What do the authors recommend:

  1. Specialize, develop partnerships and orchestrate the resulting process network to extend your capabilities.
  2. Develop open collaborative environments and orchestrate innovation within these partnership networks.
  3. It is not enough to strip costs from existing products.  Instead, redesign products and processes from a “Clean-sheet” perspective in a way that amplifies your own distinctive capabilities and those of the partners in your network.

Relevance for Education

Whether it’s high school dropouts, workers needing re-training, organizations with new learning demands, higher expectations from graduates, or a multitude of other new demands for learning; we too are facing new and different “markets” for learning.  It is not enough just to make small adjustments to existing systems that were designed for other demands.  We need to redesign our educational products and processes by innovating within our own capabilities and by seeking open network partnerships to extend those capabiities.