The Arts and the Art and Science of Management Teaching
Summary and Keywords
The arts have played a major role in the development of management theory, practice, and education; and artists’ competencies like creativity, inventiveness, aesthetic appreciation, and a design mindset are increasingly vital for individual and organizational success in a competitive global world. The arts have long been used in teaching to: (a) explore human nature and social structures; (b) facilitate cognitive, socioemotional, and behavioral growth; (c) translate theory into action; (d) provide opportunities for professional development; and (e) enhance individual and systemic creativity and capacities for change. Use of literature and films are curricular mainstays. A review of the history of the arts in management teaching and learning illustrates how the arts have expanded our ways of knowing and defining managerial and leadership effectiveness—and the competencies and training necessary for them.
The scholarship of management teaching is large, primarily ‘how-to’ teaching designs and the assessments of them. There is a clear need to expand the research on how and why the arts are and can be used more effectively to educate professionals, enable business growth and new product development, facilitate collaboration and team building, and bring innovative solutions to complex ideas. Research priorities include: the systematic assessments of the state of arts-based management teaching and learning; explorations of stakeholder attitudes and of environmental forces contributing to current educational models and practices; analyses of the learning impact of various pedagogical methods and designs; examining the unique role of the arts in professional education and, especially, in teaching for effective action; mining critical research from education, psychology, creativity studies, and other relevant disciplines to strengthen management teaching and learning; and probing how to teach complex skills like innovative thinking and creativity. Research on new roles and uses for the arts provide a foundation for a creative revisiting of 21st-century management education and training.
Keywords: management education, arts-based teaching, innovation, training and development, leadership, creativity, professional effectiveness, student learning, organization development, human development
The use of the creative, performing, literary, and visual arts in management education, training, and development is neither experimental nor a recent innovation. It is an interesting question as to why scholars continue to see it as a novelty or “emerging phenomena” (e.g., Nissley, 2002). Learning through the arts is a long-employed pedagogy across cultures and disciplines with benefits that include:
2. significant cognitive, socioemotional, and behavioral growth (Fiske, 1999);
The rich history of the arts in management education illustrates the ways arts-based pedagogies have redefined how and what educators teach and learn: expanded their ways of knowing, discovering self and other, enhancing complex skills, and defining managerial and leadership effectiveness—and the competencies and training necessary for them. The history also demonstrates the important symbiotic relationship between education and the world of practice, and how arts-based pedagogies have influenced the organizational and administrative sciences theory and research bases.
The arts, for example, challenge the logical-rational paradigm inherited from turn-of-the-last-century scientific management (Nissley, 2002). They have broadened the ontological, teleological, and epistemological foundations of the field, introducing issues like design thinking (Dunne & Martin, 2017; Pink, 2005), aesthetic ways of knowing (Jones, 1984; Nissley, 2002; Reimer & Smith, 1992), multiple managerial intelligences (Martin, 2001), and soul (Bolman & Deal, 2011). They have served as a visible counterweight to historical tendencies within schools of business and management to emphasize the quantitative and quantifiable—to promote, as critics have asserted, “faulty assumptions of rigor” buttressed by “abstract financial and economic analysis, statistical multiple regressions, and laboratory psychology” as if management were a “discipline like chemistry” and not a field of practice (Bennis & O’Toole, 2005), a profession requiring personal judgment and artistry (Khurana, 2007; Leavitt, 1975; Mintzberg, 1975, 2014), and a performing art itself (Vaill, 1991).
The arts also play an indispensable role in entrepreneurship education and training for business start-ups, reconfirming experiential education as the core of professional preparation. Those pedagogies have moved beyond borrowing artistic practices and metaphors—integrating selected arts products, approaches, or language into teaching methods to illustrate theory or encourage reflection on it—to “making art” as a way to foster the creativity, design mindsets, and aesthetic sensibilities essential for success (Adler, 2006; Canton, 2007; Edwards, 2008; Pink, 2005; Seifter, 2004).
This article examines selected highlights of the history of the arts in management teaching and learning in order to understand their full scope and impact. It begins with the larger context of the field’s evolution and explores the synergy among management theory, practice, and education. It then draws on specific examples from teaching through literature and films to illustrate key pedagogical issues. It ends with exploration of unanswered questions and identifies seven areas for research that can shape a more informed and confident future for management education, theory, and practice.
Where Have We Been, Where Are We Going
The use of the arts in management teaching and learning has a long, rich, and multicultural heritage. The human need to make the abstract concrete is deep, and theater and storytelling have long been central to it. Storytelling is meaning-making, and it is an economic way to convey beliefs and values, learn from experience, and inspire social action (Bateson, 1995; Bennis & Levinson, 1996; Denning, 2005, 2007). Theater—storytelling’s close cousin—integrates narrative with visual imagery and interpretative performance to frame questions about universal political, religious, social, and moral issues. This role is so universally understood that theater and its elements of role, character, scene, setting, acting, and so on are often used as metaphors for life (Wickham, 1992); and theater has long served as a hermeneutic device for understanding human nature, the links between choice and consequence and diversity, offering opportunities to walk in another’s shoes and experience the world through their eyes.
Ancient Greeks, for example, studied leadership and organizing like none before them and used drama to do it (Clemens & Mayer, 1999; Donaldson, 2004); Classical Greek theater and poetry are their enduring legacies. The Greeks intuitively knew that human nature is best understood by analysis of choices and relationships, and that collective action requires a “script” on how a populace frames and makes sense of its world (Benford & Hunt, 1992; Benford & Snow, 2000). Theater was citizen education. Plato even launched a school with his take on drama-infused teaching and learning. His famous dialogues combined structured inquiry and case analysis with the theatrical elements of character, plot, and setting. Plato built his pedagogy on a form of two-performer mime by the Sicilian poets Sophron and Epicharmus, whose work he adored (Ausland, 1997). Plato, like his contemporaries, saw no need to separate education from entertainment. They were not alone.
While Plato was advancing his teaching strategies in Greece, for example, dialogue-centered education in precolonial Africa was in full force, combining the use of tribal legends, proverbs, artifacts, character-driven myths, and riddles to test judgment, develop reasoning skills, and investigate human values (Mazonde, 2007; Miller, 2007). Later, minstrels, court jesters, and theater troupes across medieval Europe used stories, plays, and analogies to speak truth to power and teach leadership lessons—a tradition that reflects theater’s historic reputation as “a constant source of anxiety the world over to leaders of Church and State” (Wickham, 1992). And for centuries, nations and cultures around the world have transferred values and the wisdom of elders to the generations through their music, dance, rituals, and epic tales.
Closer to contemporary management education, faculty at the Harvard Business School (HBS) in the 1920s pioneered the instructional use of stories—they called them cases. Case teaching was revolutionary in its early days, asking students to immerse themselves in the real world for a “what if” experience: assume the role of key actors and play out alternative versions of their story. Although case teaching was not invented at Harvard—Barnes, Christensen, and Hansen (1995) remind us of Talmudic traditions—the pedagogy is closely identified with the university. In 1870, Christopher Columbus Langdell experimented at Harvard Law School with teaching through court cases, and later as dean made case teaching and the Socratic method the school’s standard pedagogy (Eliot, 1920; Harvard Law School History Project, 2005). HBS faculty drew on the experiences of their law school colleagues. In the 1980s, the Hartwick Institute (2018) began developing management cases using world literature, history, philosophy, and poetry. Multimedia and video cases (e.g., Higgins, 2019) followed with technology.
The development of a managerial persona and public speaking skills captivated management education in the 1930s under the influence of Dale Carnegie (1936). Voice training, attention to image and managerial presence, dressing for success, and opportunities to rehearse the manager’s role—learning to praise, use tact, encourage others to believe your ideas are their own, and become what William Whyte (1956) would later critique as the quintessential “organizational man”—became important. The Carnegie period sowed seeds for a new view of managerial success and of the preparation needed for achieving it. Professional effectiveness was skilled performance in the theater of work—how well managers understood and played their roles—and management itself was on the road to becoming “a performing art” (Vaill, 1991). The Carnegie period anchored theater arts training techniques into management, leadership, and other professional development activities and led to decades of interest in how to encourage and assess skilled performance, role effectiveness, and the presentation of self at work. Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936) is still the all-time, best-selling management book—in print for more than 80 years and more than 10 million copies sold.
In the 1940s, management education benefited from advances by the military in simulated learning environments and context-specific role-playing. “Assessment Centers,” developed for the selection and training of intelligence agents during World War II, took the Carnegie era’s interest in role preparation deeper. The Centers elicited and “assessed” behavioral responses to complex situations. Assessment Center activities included leaderless groups in vigorous outdoor settings; role-plays involving enemies, confederates, or escaped prisoners; stress interviews; and more (Bray, 1982). Center methods and philosophies migrated into management education and training after the war and reinforced the value of experiential activities, context-based learning, and differentiating the skill components of managerial and professional effectiveness.
The human relations movement of the 1950s and 1960s adapted Assessment Center role-playing, improvisation, and exercises and rooted them as mainstays in management teaching and learning. The methods created “safe” opportunities for managers to see themselves in action across situations; understand the implications of choice; and enhance self-awareness, decision-making, and relationship skills. These developments paralleled the birth of organization development (OD), the introduction of dramaturgical metaphors into management and professional lexicons through the work of sociologist Irving Goffman (1959), and a wealth of new organizational theories emphasizing the human side of enterprise. Those included the importance of fit between individual and organization, the distinction between intention and action, the human capacity for blindness in the face of incompetence, and the value of free and informed choice.
In this professional world, definitions of managerial success transformed yet again, as did teaching and training requirements for mastering it. Emphasis on behavioral options and personal choice morphed managers into proactive, collaborative professionals—partners with their organizations in co-creating workplaces that foster openness to learning and consistency among beliefs, values, and actions (Argyris, 1964a, 1970). Effective management teaching and learning now required attention to “actionable” knowledge and authenticity. The era planted seeds for decades of organizational theory, practice, and research on authority, hierarchy, causality, and valid information. It also propelled new pedagogies to maximize reflection-in-action (Schon, 1983); counter defensiveness in the face of change (Argyris, 1985, 1980, 1991); and engage in generative discovery of personal agency and social justice (Freire, 1970).
The 1970s and 1980s also brought appreciation for the sociocultural roots of organizing and the evolution of a “symbolic perspective” on organizations. The symbolic perspective is a theoretical construct introduced by Bolman and Deal (1978, 1984, 1995, 2003, 2017) to unify the work of individuals who questioned many assumptions upon which previous theories of organization were based—most notably that organizational behavior is explicitly purposive and that organizations function and are structured in linear and intendedly rational ways. While those whose research fell under the symbolic banner would not describe themselves as “symbolists,” their contributions shared important similarities (Gallos, 1982). They implicitly built on core ideas about organizational ethos introduced decades earlier in the classic work of William Whyte (1956), expanded the interdisciplinary nature of the organizational behavior (OB) theory base by incorporating ideas from fields like symbolic interactionism (Blumer, 1969) and cultural anthropology, and shared consistent philosophical underpinnings in phenomenology and the social construction of reality (Berger & Luckmann, 1972).
From a symbolic perspective, what actually happens may be less important than how people make sense of it (e.g., Meyer & Rowan, 1977; Rowe, 1974; Weick, 1976; Westerlund & Sjostrand, 1979). The arts are the historic embodiment of meaning-making; and the era proposed a host of arts-based methods to probe individual, cultural, and organizational meaning systems. These included storytelling and narrative analysis; study of myths, fables, fairy tales, and ethnic lore; the writing of autobiographies, multilevel personal cases, organizational histories, and ethnographies; exercises related to language use, especially metaphor; creative, visual, and performing arts activities to access tacit knowledge of self and the world; literature and plays—reading, seeing, performing, or writing them; and the study of organizational artifacts to illuminate context, cultural assumptions, and the power of rituals and ceremonies (e.g., Deal & Kennedy, 1982; Schein, 2017). Play-based activities, like those using scriptwriting and scenario building, encouraged a more fluid perspective toward time and learning. They not only asked managers to learn about and from the here-and-now, they offered opportunities to “rehearse the future” in hopes of subsequently avoiding costly errors in judgment (Schwartz, 1991).
The practitioner world of OD went as far as to label OD as a transformational “art”—and Mirvis (2006) argues that the creative, performing, and visual arts have played an increasingly vital role in advancing OD thinking as a global practice. OD employed the arts for diagnosis, visioning, and change: music, songwriting, drawing, mask-making, dance, storytelling, clowning, reflections on classical art works, sculpture, and more. It imported models from literary criticism (Cohen, 1998) and arts scholarship for assessing the nonlinear nature of organizing and change. It created video documentaries and performance art for intervention and assessment (Mirvis, 1980).
The arts also became metaphors to explore systems, leadership, and change dynamics: transformation as a three-act drama (Tichy & Devanna, 1986), management as a performing art (Vaill, 1991), the dance of blind reflex (Oshry, 1996), the dance of power (Oshry, 1999), the dance of change (Senge, Kleiner, Roberts, Ross, & Smith, 1999), leader as conductor (Zander & Zander, 2000), leader as architect and artisan (Bolman & Deal, 2003), and organizational change as design (Cameron, 2003) to name a few. Theater arts and storytelling became the foundations for large-scale organizational interventions like Search Conferences (Weisbord & Janoff, 1995), whole system participatory experiences (Bunker & Alban, 2006), staged events to dramatize and visually illustrate the what if of choices (e.g., Mirvis, Ayas, & Roth, 2003), and multicultural learning journeys to raise global consciousness within multinational corporations (Mirvis & Ayas, 2008; Mirvis & Gunning, 2006). Permeable boundaries have always existed between OD and management education—sometimes the same professionals are involved in both kinds of work. It is no surprise that OD arts-based interventions have been adapted for classroom teaching and corporate training, and vice versa.
The late 1980s and 1990s also brought recognition of the limitations of T-groups methods—the “sensitivity training groups” at the core of the human relations movement (Argyris, 1964b)—and impetus for a new generation of laboratory education. The new methods relied on “living theater” to access truths about human behavior and systems. Barry Oshry’s Power Labs (Oshry, 1996, 1999; Sales, 2006), for example, immersed people in a multiday simulated society where participants lived out an assigned role at the top, middle, or bottom of the hierarchy under conditions and constraints similar to those experienced by individuals living daily in similar circumstances. Oshry’s simulated societies served dual purposes: they provided opportunities to act out social inequality and to create and test alternatives. William Torbert (1989) created The Theater of Inquiry and mounted large-scale, interactive, public performances described as simultaneous “performance art, conceptual art, and hermeneutic art” (Torbert, 2007). The Theater of Inquiry invited participants to become both actor and audience in a participatory drama and “live out” inquiry into their own social roles, internal paradoxes, relationships, and life possibilities. Torbert’s Alchemist Workshops (Volckmann, 2010) and Work parties (Torbert, 2018) continue the traditions.
Common to these activities is learning from immersion in playful theater—the as if nature of the activities offered psychological safety to investigate current theories-in-use (Argyris & Schon, 1972) and the social freedoms to allow experimentation with new ones. Equally important for this article, the activities are underpinned by a philosophy of multilevel learning while making art—and signal a turning point in the history of management education from the arts as vehicles for conveying content to acknowledging that professionally relevant learning and development come from intense participation in them.
From Art to Artistry: Creativity and Skills for a Complex Global Economy
The decades surrounding the new millennium were also marked by a radical expansion of the arts-as-teaching method to artistry as a management learning outcome. A mix of social and economic forces and research propelled the change. It also fueled growth of a national network of prominent business philanthropists, corporations, and senior executives (like those in David Rockefeller’s Business Committee for the Arts) who advocated business, education, and civic benefits from engagement in the arts—and offered the academy added incentive and license to advance the arts in management teaching and learning.1 Four trends of particular impact include:
1. Increasing appreciation for the role of the arts, aesthetics, and design thinking in new product development (Dunne & Martin, 2017; Isaacson, 2011; Kuang, 2011); urban, national, and global economic development (Frost-Kumpf, 1997; National Arts Policy Roundtable, 2012; Shanahan, 1981); and career and work styles (Florida, 2005; Ray & Anderson, 2000);
2. Rise of the workplace spirituality movement which linked employee satisfaction, motivation, and productivity with expectations for self-expression, creativity, and meaningful work (Milliman, Czaplewski, & Ferguson, 2003);
3. The large number of Millennials and members of Gen Z who value “purposeful work” (e.g., Bolman, 2018), flexible lifestyles and Protean careers (Hall, 1996), and organizations that facilitate them (Beall, 2017); and
These shifts parallel theorizing by scholars on managing complexity, the emergent nature of organizations, the individual and organizational implications of the birth of “positive psychology” (Seligman, 2018), and the advent of positive organizational sciences (Cameron, Dutton, & Quinn, 2003)—all of which add weight to the call for a new kind of leader who knows how to foster creativity and deep engagement, launch and sustain positive organizational cultures, and “attract” existing system energy and interests to new visions and possibilities (Hatch, 1997; Hatch, Kostera, & Kozminski, 2005).
Scholarly views of leading and managing also shifted (e.g., De Pree, 2004; Morgan, Harkins, & Goldsmith, 2004; Senge, 2006; Townsend & Gebhardt, 1999; Vaill, 1991). The term art had been largely used in default. Leading and managing are complex, human processes (e.g., Gallos, 2013), and, therefore, impossible to define or enact as a “normal science” (Kuhn, 1996): if leading and managing aren’t science, then they must be art. The global economy, new ways of organizing to respond to ever-evolving economic fluctuations, recruiting and retaining challenges, and rising appreciation for the arts all encouraged management scholars and educators to take the art in the art of managing more seriously. Business certainly was.
Competition, technology, formal and informal Internet marketing, and constant turnover in the production and consumption of goods have increased the scope and pace of change and pressures to innovate (Canton, 2007; Pink, 2005). In addition, rising global prosperity and the proliferation of affordable goods and services have altered social, cultural, and economic life around the world (Pink, 2005; Prahalad, 2006). The result is a shift from lifestyles largely focused on survival to ones involving expanded consumer choices, increasingly driven by novelty, artistic appeal, their power as symbols, and emotional “added value.”
Aesthetics is also becoming more prominent relative to other goods. When we decide how next to spend our time or money, considering what we already have and the costs and benefits of various alternatives, “look and feel” is likely to top our list. We don’t want more food, or even more restaurant meals—we’re already maxed out. Instead, we want tastier, more interesting food in an appealing environment. It’s a move from physical quantity to intangible, emotional quality.
(Postrel, 2007, p. 165).
In such a world, continuous improvement—the 20th-century strategy of incrementally advancing existing products and processes—is insufficient. Inventing the next “new new thing” (Lewis, 1999) drives success—or failure if the awaited advance comes from a competitor or newcomer. Innovation is an artistic design task, not an administrative or analytical function. It draws on inventiveness, creative imagination, and a willingness to look beyond the conventional—characteristics historically seen as the primary competencies of practicing artists (Adler, 2006). A session on global competitiveness at the 2004 Davos World Economic Forum framed a challenge to management educators and training: if creativity and imagination are highly valued in business and there are no easy ways to teach them, then “how can the use of artistic competencies and communication forms contribute to organizational change and new product development?” and “what can business leaders learn from artists?”2
All this suggests a deeper partnership between the arts and management and the reality that today’s problems beg for more creative solutions. Scientists and artists bring complementary approaches: scientists embrace the data-based and peer-reviewed, while artists seek the original and untried. The “crossover learning” possible is a path to “breakthrough problem-solving” (Edwards, 2008). For management educators, this translates into pedagogical practices that (a) engage in art-making to acquire the creative thinking, aesthetic sensibilities, and mindsets of an artist; (b) partner with artists who can challenge the assumptions implicit in traditional management theory and practice; or (c) do both. Demographic shifts and the changing nature of the workforce predispose management education audiences to embrace the opportunities.
Technology and the knowledge economy have propelled the rise of a global “creative class” (Florida, 2002): a growing number of people in diverse fields who “create” for a living, many of whom work as independent service providers. In the United States alone, Florida (2002) estimates that more than 38 million people across sectors and industries live and work in ways that have historically defined the artist’s life; and that the number has doubled between 1980 and 2000 with no end to the rise in sight. Studies of Generation Y (e.g., Chester, 2002; Martin, 2007) and Gen Z (Beall, 2017) identify similarities in work-life values and preferences with those embracing a “cultural creative lifestyle” (Ray & Anderson, 2000) and add evidence that the trend will continue.
Notions of work time and space, professional development, collegiality, motivation, and career have changed for the creative class and for their more aesthetically inclined young cousins—as well as for the organizations seeking to hire them. Contrast, for example, work life and corporate culture at IBM in the 1960s to the same at Google today. Life inside the Google “Plex” (e.g., CBS, 2011) speaks volumes about wedding artistry, self-expression, flexibility, innovation, playfulness, and productivity.
The changes also resonate with the workplace spirituality movement and its push for a more “nourishing” quality of work life and jobs that feed the soul (Delbecq, 2008). The U.S. Department of Labor even outlines career paths, salary scales, and training sources across 300 occupations for those who find the need to express their creativity at work “as necessary as eating and breathing” (Vilorio, 2015). And start-ups aimed at Millennial and Gen Z markets like Brightest, Inc. help individuals track opportunities for “finding purposeful work, taking action, and tracking their personal social impact—all over the world” (Bolman, 2018).
Every organization’s success rests on “creative human capital” to differentiate its products (Florida, 2005), and even traditional industries are rethinking their relationship to the arts to do so (Seifter, 2004; Seifter & Buswick, 2005). Bob Lutz, the hard-hitting, tough negotiating, cigar-smoking, ex-Marine fighter pilot signaled a new day when as chairman of General Motors North America he publicly defined the GM mission as art. “I see us being in the art business. Art, entertainment, and mobile sculpture which, coincidently, also happens to provide transportation” (Hakim, 2001). An increasing number of businesses and organizations have activities and ongoing partnerships with poets, designers, architects, dancers, musicians, theater professionals, and visual artists to bolster their profitability (see the special edition on business and the arts in the Journal of Business Strategy, 2005; as well as in Adler, 2006; Darso, 2001, 2004, 2005; Pink, 2005).
The world is moving from an information age where analytic skills were king to a conceptual age where innovation, meaning systems, and finding new opportunities reign. Work and work roles continue to evolve for both blue- and white-collar workers as a result of new technologies and economic incentives to outsource mundane, repetitive, or analytic tasks. Conceptual age skills, concludes Pink (2005), are steeped in artistry:
1. Design—how to wed function with strong aesthetics;
2. Storytelling—how to influence through compelling narrative, not simple data;
3. Creating symphony—how to combine distinctive elements into an innovative whole;
4. Empathy—how to inform logic with an understanding of human nature and needs;
5. Play—how to embrace humor, lightheartedness, and the creative potential in joyful experimentation; and
6. Making meaning—how to look beyond accumulation and the acquisition of things and fact for significance, contribution, and spiritual fulfillment.
According to the Harvard Business Review, top corporations recruit at arts and design schools, and the master in fine arts degree may become the new MBA (HBR Editors, 2004). In sum, contemporary management education and training serve their students well when they teach them how to act, create, and work like artists (Austin & Devin, 2003).
A number of leading business schools have responded. INSEAD has partnered with the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, to foster a “design mentality” for its graduates (Nussbaum & Tiplady, 2005). MIT focuses on acting and performance (Flaherty, 2002). University of Chicago business students write, produce, and showcase films, while Cranfield students immerse themselves in Shakespeare (Adler, 2006). Wharton partnered with the world-renowned Pilobolus Dance Company: a required part of its MBA curriculum had leaders-in-training engaged in avant-garde dance and choreography (Pilobolus, 2007). Both Harvard and Stanford business schools have sought to build leadership character through literature for more than 20 years (Badaracco, 2006; March & Weil, 2005; Sucher, 2007a, 2007b), taking advantage of literature’s singular capacity to plumb the depths of human capacities and experience.
A Deep Dive Into Human Nature and Organizations: Exploring Complexity Using Literature
Among the artistic forms employed in educating professionals across centuries and cultures, literature is a mainstay. Good fiction, Dillard (1982) argues, reveals more about the world, human nature, and modern thinking than the academic sciences and all other art forms combined. Literature brings readers into contact with people, places, and problems they would not otherwise meet and offers focused experiences that can be deeper and sharper than everyday life (Nussbaum, 1990).
The power of literature is its intimate access to our humanity. LePore (2013) reminds that the novel was born in the 18th century as history, not a critique of or substitution for it. Genre-founding novelists like Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, William Godwin, and Laurence Sterne saw their works as accurate histories of “what passes in a man’s own mind”—truths that could not be distorted by selective or missing facts.
Novelists really had founded a new kind of biography, a new kind of history: there was history based in fact (whose truth is founded in documentary evidence) and history based in fiction (whose truth is founded in human nature). Novelists believed the second was truer than the first. . . . Every history is incomplete; every historian has a point of view; every historian relies on what is unreliable: documents written by people who were not under oath and cannot be cross-examined. . . . The novelist is the better historian because he admits these deficiencies. The novelist, not the historian, Godwin argued, is “the writer of real history.”
(LePore, 2013, p. 240)
Fiction is also subtle pedagogy, asserts Dillard (1982). Reading word by word, we slow life down, study it, and study our reactions to it. We see events from multiple perspectives—our own, the writer’s, and various characters in the story—increasing our understanding of human cognition and diversity, the impact of time and culture, and the frames of reference we use to make sense of it all. Fiction traffics in understanding—and understanding is at the heart of professional effectiveness.
The major challenges of work—understanding others, motivating and influencing, managing competing interests and conflicts, generating productive alternatives, and the list goes on—are “echoes of critical issues of life more generally,” asserts the late James March, the distinguished organizational theorist who taught a popular, literature-based leadership course at the Stanford Graduate School of Business from 1980 until his retirement in 1995 (March & Weil, 2005, p. 1). Effective action in a fast-paced, multicultural world requires deep thinking about self and others in context and about ever-shifting organizational landscapes. Good management education offers opportunities to develop diagnostic skills and mindfulness. Literature is the perfect vehicle to strengthen both. It lays out the “grand dilemmas” of human existence in an enjoyable and accessible form and invites students to compare their options and solutions to those of others (March & Weil, 2005).
The health sciences have long used literature—reading and writing it—for professional education, development, and renewal: the medical humanities are well established in medical education. Coles (1989) argues that stories deepen the inner life of caregivers, and position learning and growth as healthy responses to disappointment, challenge, and suffering. Coles and Testa (2002), for example, created a literary anthology to explore the ethical and procedural dilemmas from scientific advances and changes in medicine. Literature nurtures skills in observation, analysis, diagnosis, empathy, and self-reflection; and it is a productive strategy for managing work-related stress—as necessary for managers and leaders, asserts Frost (2003), as caregivers. Literary giants like William Carlos Williams, Anton Chekhov, W. Somerset Maugham, and John Keats were physicians. Prestigious medical journals like the Journal of the American Medical Association, Lancet, and Annals of Internal Medicine regularly publish literary works by practicing physicians. Many healthcare clinicians are published poets (e.g., Breedlove, 1998; Campo, 1994, 1996; Gibson, 2019).
Equally useful, literature provides a behind-the-scenes look into complexity. Modern life challenges adult developmental capacities, and we are all literally “in over our heads” as we sort through life’s current demands with cognitive and socioemotional capacities and strategies learned from simpler times (Kegan, 1998). Management educators do students a disservice when they convey illusions of simplicity or control with models and theories that portray the workplace as linear, rational, neat, and tidy. Human nature, relationships, and organizing are complicated. Social processes like leading and managing are steeped in ambiguity and choice; and internal struggles, confusion, mistakes, and doubts of the soul are par for the course (Delbecq, 2008). Good literature plays out human struggles in their fullness, and leadership looks more like the gritty process that it is—and less glamorous and heroic—when seen through the difficult choices of compelling characters.
As an example, The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad shows the leadership development of a young sea captain from the inside out.3 When used with graduate students at a large public university, the students easily identified with the captain’s inner struggles. His fears gave them language and license to talk about their own. Like many of the students, the captain had technical know-how and a variety of experience, but no approach to leading. At the helm for the first time, he is surprised by what he finds and finds out about himself. Leadership is a lot harder than expected: followers must be earned, the work is fast and steady, decisions are often made in the face of ambiguity, and mistakes can be costly. Leadership is also lonely work—and Conrad’s straightforward prose allowed students to “feel” that and to see its impact on the captain. By the end of the story, students understood cognitively and emotionally that leadership engages mind, heart, body, and soul—and even the most prepared are never fully certain that they will succeed.
Conrad writes with compassion for the captain; and students recognize that leaders need patience, support, openness to learning, persistence, and permission to make and learn from their mistakes. The captain faces his vulnerabilities. He accepts his limits, and he digs deep to find inner strength. He builds skills as a reflective practitioner (Schon, 1983)—a hard concept for students to grasp from reading theory alone—and learns by examining his impact on others. By story’s end, the captain feels ready to take the helm—confident and humble.
By talking about the captain, students advanced their own development. They were amazed by contemporary parallels to a story set more than a century ago, were excited by insights into leadership and themselves, and learned a model of using literature for their ongoing professional development. This even happened for students with limited background in the humanities and for those who are not regular readers or consumers of fiction. Comments from course evaluations included statements like:
“When we started the course, I couldn’t figure out why we were reading stories but when we started discussing them, I saw things that I never would have from a textbook.”
“Every week I’d do the reading, sure I had nailed the story. Then we’d discuss it in class and I’d see things totally different. Every week I went home smarter than when I came.”
“I want to go back and read all the things I read in high school and college that never meant much to me then. I just never got it before.”
Conrad’s story is short yet rich for exploring a host of additional issues, like leadership character and resolve, leader as facilitator of adaptive change (Heifetz, 1994), leadership passages (e.g., Bennis & Thomas, 2002; Dotlich, Noel, & Walker, 2008), decision-making under stress, healthy followership, power and influence, integrity, organizational justice, inner spiritual growth, resilience, and more. It is only one literature possibility for exploring any of those issues—and many others.
Resources abound for relevant fiction and instructor advice in using it. Howe (1996), for example, advocates the liberating nature of literature for a pluralistic field like management and proposes plays, poems, and fiction to expand beyond narrow, discipline-centered models of leading and organizing. Czarniawska-Joerges and Guillet de Monthoux (1994) identify international classics. Coles (1989), Clemens and Mayer (1999), and Phillips (1995) discuss pedagogical strategies and a variety of works. The anthology by Coles and Testa (2002) goes beyond healthcare. In fact, Robert Coles introduced literature-based teaching to the Harvard Business School in the 1980s as part of his work on professional development through stories with all seven of Harvard’s professional schools (law, architecture, education, divinity, design, business, and government).
Other noteworthy resources include March’s discussion of his Stanford course using Shakespeare’s Othello, Shaw’s Saint Joan, Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and Cervantes’s Don Quixote (March & Weil, 2005). Badaracco (2006) and Sucher (2007a, 2007b) explore their Harvard Business School leadership courses. The Hartwick Humanities in Management Institute (Hartwick Institute, 2018) identifies excerpts from larger works and how to use them. Hartwick teaching notes include management themes, teaching strategies, discussion questions, social and historical background, relevant management and leadership theories, and bibliographies.
Engaging and Motivating Learners: Using Films and Video
Using films and videos accomplishes many of the same purposes as literature, adding an immediacy and visual and emotional impact that engages learners. The birth of “moving photoplays”—movies, for short—coincided with the birth of psychology, and early psychologists quickly grasped the learning potential of the new art form. Harvard’s Hugo Munsterberg, a founding father of applied psychology and early president of the American Psychological Association, was captivated by films and extolled “how the workings of the mind are written on the body” of actors (LePore, 2015, p. 37). He saw no better psychological laboratory than films, and envisioned solidifying his research on perception, emotions, and more from parsing them. The Photoplay: A Psychological Study (Munsterberg, 1916) is one of earliest examples of film theory.
Familiar scenes from popular films or television “go down easy” with students and create “sticky” learning—memorable visual metaphors of organizational theory and dynamics (Marx & Frost, 1998). Film scores double the pleasure and the potential for learning, as music tacitly heightens a film’s emotional impact and viewer engagement in it (Lehman, 2018). Films and videos can supplement course readings and texts (Billsberry, Leonard, & Charlesworth, 2012), serve as the primary instructional medium (Smith, 2009), or facilitate flipped and blended classroom approaches (Desai, Jabeen, Abdul, & Rao, 2018; Yeh, Huang, & Yeh, 2011).
Management education pioneered films for instruction, and advanced a half century of progression in use with changes in technology (Billsberry, 2013; Champoux, 1999). The 1970s, for example, saw film reels, cumbersome projectors, and films largely limited to corporate training materials (Smith, 1973). The 1980s brought the video cassette recorder (VCR), proliferation of feature films, options like rewind and fast forward, and the capacity to “tape” commercial television for timely and varied teaching materials. Digital versatile disks (DVDs) improved quality and fidelity, saved tape queuing and rewinding, and replaced bulky and breakable cassettes. By the 1990s, showing films, TV, and movie segments was a staple (Billsberry, 2013; Lacho, Herring, & Hartman, 1991; Lee, 1987). Digital cameras and editing software facilitated student filmmaking—from short segments that illustrate concepts to larger projects like those at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business (Adler, 2006; Schultz & Quinn, 2013).
With increased use came recognition that films and videos work with different learning styles. The visuals add a feel of reality to theory and illustrate application across situations. Research confirms that people learn abstract, unusual, or new knowledge more easily when presented in both verbal and visual forms or when they create visuals and present them to others (Solomon, 1979a, 1979b, 1983). Like teaching with other art forms, viewing or making films enhances perception, cognition, emotional and cultural awareness, and an appreciation of aesthetics (Jensen, 2001).
Films and videos engage for multiple reasons: excitement in connecting to something popular or known, anticipated pleasure in seeing a clip or actor, curiosity about a film choice or its relevance, opportunity to see a visual interpretation of a concept, and contrasts to traditional teaching methods. This is especially true for those who grow up in a technology- and media-intensive world (Gioia & Brass, 1985–1986). The benefits of elevated engagement are well documented. It increases attention and participation, deepens interest in learning, facilitates acquisition of information and ability to retain it, assists integration of new learning into existing knowledge, and aids skill development (Marx & Frost, 1998).
Teaching well with films and videos is challenging. Watching them demands quick, continuous, and simultaneous processing of imagery and sound; and students will need help managing that. In contrast, readers can return to passages, reread unfamiliar ideas, and skim the familiar, tacitly controlling their pace and approach to avoid boredom or confusion (Shebilske & Reid, 1979). Films also require more instructor attention to setting the right “window of cognitive engagement” (Kozma, 1991)—when to introduce film, when to stop and start it, how much to show to create the right level of challenge, and so on. Overly simple or complex content both lower attention rates and reduce comprehension (Huston & Wright, 1983).
Preparing students adequately matters as much as choosing and pacing the right clip. Hooper and Hannafin (1991) identify two distinct “orienting functions”: (1) cognitive, where learners are prepared to view a film through the lens of a specific key point, question, or idea; and (2) affective, where instructors select segments to evoke strong emotional responses and prepare students not to be derailed or distracted by them. Learning requires both effort and concentration, and years of watching media for entertainment predisposes students to invest less mental effort in films than in print medium (Cennamo, 1993; Solomon, 1983). Proper “orienting” results in higher mental effort and achievement scores when compared to students instructed to view the same film for enjoyment (Solomon & Leigh, 1984), as does a strong instructional design and good questions to facilitate processing and learning from the viewing. A closer look at a teaching design for the feature film A Beautiful Mind illustrates how and why.
The movie features Russell Crowe as MIT math professor John Nash and Jennifer Connelly as his student. Crowe’s character is mathematically gifted but interpersonally challenged and plagued with psychosis. Connelly’s character is smart in math and life. A possible teaching scene begins with Nash being reminded by his office mates that he is teaching his first college class shortly. Without preparation, he rushes into the classroom, and is greeted by a noisy jackhammer outside the open window. Despite hot weather and student pleas, Nash shuts the window. He throws the assigned text in the wastebasket, and turns to write complex math equations on the blackboard. As he writes he mutters, “Personally, I think this class will be a waste of your and, what is infinitely worse, my time.”
The Connelly character stands up, makes eye contact with the professor, and opens the window. She hails the foreman with a friendly “Excuse me” and explains that it is hot with the window closed but noisy with it open. She pleasantly asks if the workers could take a short break until class is over. The foreman smiles and adjourns the group for lunch. Connelly returns to her seat. Crowe acknowledges her intervention in math terms: “As you will find in multivariate calculus, there is often a number of solutions to any given problem.”
The scene lasts two minutes, but it contains abundant material for exploring a complex concept like emotional intelligence (EI). Research shows that learning from films requires multiple activities that reinforce the central learning goals (Marx & Meisel, 2006). A possible design using this clip—and a model for using others—might include the following steps.
1. State the central learning goal. Begin with a brief introduction to the linkages between EI and skilled management (Goleman, Boyatsis, & McKee, 2002).
2. Provide a simple conceptual introduction to the theory. Lay out the four domains of EI (self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, relationship management) (see Goleman et al., 2002, p. 39).
3. Orient students with pre-viewing questions. Show the film. Lead a short general discussion. Ask students to watch the clip and assess the overall emotional intelligence of the two main characters.
4. Divide the class into four subgroups and have each view the film again with a different focal question. Ask one group to view the film again focusing on the skill set for self-awareness, a second group for social awareness, a third for self-management, and the fourth group for relationship management.
5. Provide opportunity for small group discussion. Create new groups with one member from each of the four subgroups. Ask the new quads to discuss the attributes of both characters from the perspective of their assigned domain and be prepared to report their findings.
6. Build on the experience with other activities to extend and reinforce learning. Collect observations from a few of the quads. Ask all of them to write out their observations on a printed worksheet and submit it for class credit. Administer an EI self-assessment questionnaire to individual students. Collect those responses, and provide students with take-home questions to reflect on what they can learn about themselves from their questionnaire answers.
Billsberry, Leonard, and Charlesworth (2012), Champoux (1999, 2001, 2003), and Clemens and Wolfe (2000) provide the basics for using films: teaching strategies, movie recommendations, beginning and end points for scene selection, topic options, and discussion questions. Management Live! The Video Book (Marx, Frost, & Jick, 1991) is a classic—and was the first text to provide a VHS of suggested film and TV segments.
Scholarly articles discuss teaching with major animated films like The Lion King and Toy Story (e.g., Champoux, 2001; Comer, 2001). Others explore conceptual issues like the arts for teaching about diversity (Bumpus, 2005) or expanding individual development (Gallos, 1993b) and capabilities to reframe experience (Gallos, 1993a). The bulk offer class designs with film suggestions on a range of topics, such as vision (e.g., Quijada, 2017), leadership (e.g., Long, 2017; Rajendran & Andrew, 2014), public sector management (e.g., Borry, 2018), caregiving (e.g., Ber & Alroy, 2001), cross-cultural management (e.g., Desai, Jabeen, Abdul, & Rao, 2018; Pandey, 2012), and more. The searchable Journal of Management Education and Management Teaching Review databases are rich sources of media and teaching designs. A growing body of work supports organizing student filmmaking projects within courses or degree programs (e.g., Hakkarainen & Saarelainen, 2005; Kearney & Schuck, 2003, 2005).
Strengthening the Science: Research Directions for Teaching with the Arts
Management teaching with the arts has evolved incrementally and through the active experimentation and ingenuity of educators working to prepare students for the challenges they face. To a large degree, management teaching has been more art than science: the literature on how to incorporate the arts is as extensive and varied as the research to understand impact variables and outcomes is sparse. The bulk of scholarship is either richly developed “how to” articles or conceptual pieces proposing instructional frameworks or justifications for teaching through the arts. Research, in the more traditional sense, is largely an assessment of how well certain activities or exercises work and how they might work better. This article is intended as a creative invitation to reflect on the current state of management teaching through the arts and how research can broaden its impact, opportunities, and strategies. There is important work to be done.
On a larger level, management education, like all college and university teaching, has lived a second-class citizenry from the ongoing battle about teaching versus research in faculty work. In 1990, Ernest Boyer (1990) and others at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (e.g., Shulman, 1999) began a long and winding campaign to define and elevate four separate and equally valid forms of scholarship: a scholarship of discovery, integration, application, and teaching. The scholarship of teaching was—and remains—the most controversial and difficult of Boyer’s proposals to interpret and implement (Glassick, 2000). That is additional good news for researchers. The field is wide open for developing a more robust scholarship of management teaching and learning—generally and within specific disciplines and subdisciplines.
This section proposes seven possible research directions to advance and strengthen management instruction and student learning through the arts. It closes with a reminder as to the importance of why.
1. Understanding the state of the arts: Conflicting assertions about the novelty of using the arts in management teaching (e.g., Nissley, 2002) versus its maturity and widespread acceptance (e.g., Billsberry, 2013) pepper the arts-based management and professional education literature. Which is it? It is time to move beyond guess and anecdote. A systematic study is needed. So is advocacy for suggested changes to the content, structure, and purposes of 21st-century management teaching and learning that may flow from the exploration.
How widespread, for example, are arts-based teaching and learning strategies in schools of business and management? Which arts are used? Where does it lie within the curriculum? In what ways? To what outcome? With what student populations?
What drives the inclusion of arts-based teaching in a curriculum? Who, for example, makes decisions about where, how, which ones, and how much—individual faculty in their courses, all faculty teaching a section of a particular course, or faculty in specific departments in all their courses under schoolwide mandates or guidelines? What do the findings suggest for faculty development and hiring criteria? Training in doctoral programs? What is the correlation between teaching with the arts in a school or department and adopting artistry as a degree’s learning outcome? A clear sense of the big picture will bring additional research questions and directions to the surface.
2. Teaching for action: Management education is professional education and, as such, only successful when instruction leads to effective action. What roles do the arts play in this? Teaching for effective action suggests a wealth of higher-order research questions about what is teaching for effective action, why and how it works, what it must contain, conditions for maximal learning, and the role of the arts and artistry in all that. There are seminal works from almost a half century ago on educating for the professions (Glazer, 1974), and for management more specifically (Argyris & Schon, 1972; Schon, 1987). How relevant are these works today? In a competitive global economy? With current student populations? In a world fueled by technology? With career options like a “cultural creative” lifestyle? What would update and extend these seminal findings? What are the implications for management teaching, curricula, faculty development, doctoral education, and student learning? How do the arts enable instructors to teach for deep understanding (Brandt, 1993; Wiske, 1997)?
There is also a robust literature on educational values, pedagogies, and practices in specific professions, like medicine, law, social work, computer science, education, architecture, occupational therapy, ministry, and more (e.g., Cruess & Cruess, 2006; Curry & Wergin, 1993; Dall’alba & Sandberg, 1996; Dawson & Brown, 2006; Higgs & Edwards, 2002). What is relevant for management education? What can be learned from comparing values, assumptions, curricula, and teaching approaches across the professions? What are the roles, outcomes, and possibilities for art and artistry in other professional degrees? What can be adopted or adapted to strengthen management teaching?
3. Understanding impact: We know the history of arts-based pedagogies and their intended uses. Research is needed to understand their full impact. How can we delineate the unique benefits in using different art forms? What does literature, for example, contribute that is different from learning through cases or role plays? Which methods are best for imparting which management skill or knowledge component? How can we better delineate significant learning impacts beyond process goals like encouraging reflection, illustrating abstract concepts, recalling theory, or increasing student engagement?
What clues does experience offer? Harvard and Stanford have been teaching leadership through literature for 40 years. What do they know about their graduates? Do their alumni, for example, continue to use literature as continuing education? Why? Why not? And so on. We strengthen teaching and learning when we couple learning and behavioral outcomes with specific arts, methods, and designs more tightly.
4. Mining other disciplinary research databases: Effective management teaching with the arts shares a number of characteristics with all good teaching. What can be learned from exploring the research literature in educational psychology, educational instruction, arts instruction, the psychology of art (e.g., Vygotsky, 1974), the psychology of music (e.g., Lehman, 2018; Margulis, 2018), creativity studies, and more? There is much to explore about the arts and human development—including why and how they work. What findings are useful, applicable, and relevant to management educators? To professional development?
Learning for any student population, for example, is strongest with tight coordination among learning goals (what instructors expect students to know at the end of a lesson), objectives (what they expect students to be able to do with the knowledge), activities (the teaching designs that best enable students to meet those goals and objectives), and assessment (how to evaluate whether the intended learning has taken place) (e.g., Anderson & Krathwohl, 2000). As the A Beautiful Mind example illustrated, teaching with the arts requires close attention to objectives and the integration of sequential activities and assessment. High student energy and enjoyment do not guarantee understanding or use of the new knowledge.
What does educational research suggest for better aligning learning goals, objectives, activities, and assessment? About how to design significant learning experiences (Fink, 2003)? What relevant research exists on teaching the arts and artistic development? How, for example, can major educational frameworks like Bloom’s classic taxonomy of learning (Armstrong, 2018) be applied to facilitate more robust teaching designs? Complex learning like enhanced artistry? Deeper or faster skills acquisition? And more.
5. Exploring attitudes toward arts-based pedagogies: Exploring the attitudes of instructors, school leadership, students, accrediting bodies, and other key stakeholders (major donors, influential alumni, board and advisory council members, employers of graduates, etc.) is another open and important area for research. Little exists. Research shows, however, that what individuals see and believe—or think others of influence do—has an impact on what they do.
Faculty, for example, are keepers of curriculum. What are faculty beliefs about effective instruction? Where did they develop them? What reinforces them? What encourages change and pedagogical development? What are management faculty attitudes toward teaching with the arts? For artistry as a curricular outcome? What are their experiences with arts-based teaching? What is their level of confidence using the arts?
Deans are educational leaders and unit administrators. What do school leaders believe about effective management teaching and learning? About the role of arts and artistry? What does school culture prize, and what do reward systems reinforce? Where do the arts fit? How and how well do business school deans understand and stay current on pedagogy and learning theory—and how important do they see that for their leadership? How are deans influenced in their educational and curricular leadership by faculty? By their provosts and presidents? By the expectations of external stakeholders? Where do they see their power? How do they understand and enact their role as an academic leader (Bolman & Gallos, 2011)? What gives them influence? And more.
6. Probing influence forces: Force-field analysis, introduced by Kurt Lewin in the 1950s, remains an accepted method for developing a comprehensive overview of the different forces acting on an issue and assessing their relative strength. What forces influence management education today, and to what end? How responsive are management curricula, goals, and pedagogies to a changing world and student population? What forces encourage responsiveness? Propel innovation? What keeps things the same?
More specifically, what supports management teaching and learning through the arts, and the faculty development necessary to accomplish that? What gets in the way? It is hard to address the tacit legacies of scientific management (Nissley, 2002) and the academy’s preference for the quantifiable without probing the relative power and influence of key stakeholders and other environmental forces and factors that hold both in place.
A force-field analysis of one school or institution can be the foundation for comparative analyses across regions, schools of different sizes and budgets, public versus private universities, highly selective versus more open admission institutions, and other variables.
7. Fostering artistry as outcome: More is known about the arts as a learning vehicle than artistry as an outcome. What existing research must be explored—or new research undertaken—for management educators to better understand artistry, creativity acquisition, and the components of innovative thinking?
What, for example, does it mean to be creative? What would we see and measure? What is similar and different for practicing managers and practicing artists? What does it mean to become more creative? What scales or instruments exist—or must be developed—to measure notable increases in artistry? Innovative thinking? Design capacities? Are artistry, creativity, and innovative thinking the same processes? And more.
The management literature identifies three paths to artistry: (a) art-making, (b) partnering with artists, and (c) a combination of both. Which one works best? Works fastest? Under what conditions? With what learning styles or age groups? In what amount or combination? What does it mean to “make art”? To “partner” with practicing artists? Are all arts equal? Does performing with a dance company, for example, lead to the same creativity acquisition as partnering with an architect? More meat is required on these precious bones.
Understanding the state of the field is also vital. Where are business leaders learning from artists? How is that structured? What are they learning? What makes for a successful partnership? Where and how are these methods being successfully integrated into management curricula? Where might they be?
Finally, what other methods or pedagogies foster creativity? Enhance artistry? Broaden innovative problem-solving? Edwards (2008) suggests art-science “crossover learning.” How does that process work? What best facilitates it?
Arts in Management Education: Pedagogy of Hope, Human Development, and Imagination
There is a clear opportunity to expand research on the arts and artistry in management teaching, training, and learning. Scholarship is needed for a more systematic understanding of how and why the arts are—and can be more effectively used—to educate people for their professional best, enable business growth and new product development, and bring innovative solutions to complex ideas. Research that identifies new roles, strategies, and uses for the arts is also a foundation for a creative revisiting of what 21st-century management education can and should be. Organizations are human creations, populated with women and men who turn to management schools and training programs for skills and knowledge to support their careers—and, by their work and leadership, the careers and lives of others (Gallos, 2013).
The administrative sciences—and their applied cousins, OD and management education and training—were born as the route to a better world. They began as fields of promise and possibility. Long before others, for example, OD’s founders understood the inefficiencies, pain, and downsides of organizational life, and they set out to do something about them (Gallos, 2006). They brought open minds, entrepreneurial spirits, fresh thinking, and irrepressible optimism, convinced that new ways of organizing and managing were possible. They were carriers of America’s historic faith in education and progress, and they believed in the worth of every individual. Above all, they believed in learning and experimentation. There is nothing so practical as a good theory, Kurt Lewin reminded.
Good management theory, education, and practice make our organizations and communities work. Together, they create nourishing spaces for people to use their talents and contribute with satisfaction and pride. When the fit between individuals and organizations is good, everyone wins. People bring their creative best and join with others in ways that channel everyone’s best toward great collective achievement. As work and the world become more complex and competitive, it is refreshing to return to that purity of purpose. Management education is sacred work: to unleash human potential. How can the arts better support that mission? How can—and should—they enable us to strengthen contemporary management education for a more complex time? When we lose sight of that sacred mission, we come unmoored.
From Enron to the White House, we have seen that individual development and values matter—that professional effectiveness is not just about finance, bottom lines, numbers, power, individual satisfaction, and strategy. Professional effectiveness involves deep thinking, seeing complex systems, and the ability to work effectively in often ambiguous circumstances. It is about bringing people together to contribute to a common goal—whether making the best widgets or forging global partnerships for world peace. Professional effectiveness is about creating work environments that challenge current thinking and value the innovation at the heart of conflict and differences. It is about seeing new things and new routes to long-established goals and problems. It is about creating a level playing field for all to bring their talents and contributions to organizations and communities of all sizes and shapes. How can teaching with and through the arts enable everyone to find the masterpiece within? Allow all to slow life down and develop their capacities to better lead and manage people?
For more than half a century, the late Maxine Greene, William F. Russell Professor in the Foundations of Education emerita at Columbia University, founder and former director of the Center for Social Imagination at Teachers College, and long-time philosopher-in-residence at the Lincoln Center Institute for the Arts in Education, advocated a central role for the arts in learning across social classes, sectors, and age groups (e.g., Greene, 1995a, 1995b, 1997, 2007). Her vision and energy were legendary. Her rationale was simple. The arts ask us to think, and even simple encounters with them are transformational: people see new things about themselves, the world, and possibilities. Imagination is an expression of the human passion for possibility. It is the source of hope, promise, and creative action.
The great educational philosopher John Dewey recognized the same. Facts, figures, and theories are “dead and repellent things” until human imagination engages them in the search for an alternative future. The arts and the humanities open the mind and heart to what is possible.
Engaged in this search, many of us turn to the several arts, not because Goya or Virginia Woolf or Toni Morrison or Mozart or Michelangelo holds solutions the sciences and the social sciences do not, but an encounter with an art form demands a particular kind of interchange or transaction between a live human consciousness and a painting, say, or a novel, or a sonata that becomes a work of art or may be realized as art depending on the reader’s or perceiver’s willingness and readiness to grasp what is being offered. And to grasp it may mean a transformation of a sort—a changed perspective, a new mode of understanding.
(Greene, 2007, p. 2)
The arts and humanities must be central to any curriculum, asserted Greene. But they are especially important when “yesterday’s pride and certainties” have given way to “endless ambiguities and negations” (2007, p. 2).
The world is rapidly changing and not always as many would wish. Technology facilitates 24/7 graphic reminders of suffering, intolerance, confusion, and feelings of powerlessness. Global movements identify too many who feel left out, left behind, and lost as to what they can do to change that. Education with and through the arts encourages agency. It awakens the joy, creative spirit, and playfulness that enable individual and social change (Booth, 2001). It counters passivity and powerlessness, and models the capacity to see, reflect, imagine, and hope—to look through new eyes and with “consciousness of beginnings rather than closures” (Greene, 2007, p. 2). A pedagogy of hope, imagination, and change seems only right for training today’s—and tomorrow’s—leaders. In fact, they expect nothing less.
Research shows that students want pedagogies that engender deep and personal learning—and educators want strategies to provide that. Students share a common dream at the start of each new course, Light (2001, 2004) found in his multiyear study of students at 25 colleges in the Harvard Assessment Project. “Details vary, but the most common hope students express is that each class, by its end, will help them to become a slightly different person in some way” (Light, 2001, p. 47). Arts-based teaching provides a creative and engaging route to that. No pedagogy is more powerful in offering developmental growth, imagination, and a hope-filled future.
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(1.) The Business Committee for the Arts (BCA), founded by David Rockefeller, has chapters in cities across all 50 states. BCA “encourages, inspires, and stimulates businesses to support the arts in the workplace, in education, and in the community.” BCA’s members are senior business leaders “who are passionate about the role the arts play in advancing business goals and transforming communities.”
(2.) From the Forum session program description for “If An Artist Ran Your Business,” January 22, 2004 led by Lotte Darso, Research Manager for the Creative Alliance Learning Lab in Denmark. Panelists: photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand; film director Shekhar Kapur; Hermitage Museum director Mikhail Piotrovsky; and actor Chris Tucker.