Why studying arts like theater or dance may better equip business students for the post-COVID world – Philippine Canadian Inquirer
COVID has seen the idea of taking care of your employees take on a whole new meaning. As workplaces reopen and businesses grapple with the socio-economic fallout from the pandemic, leadership scholars are increasingly emphasizing the importance of maintaining this focus on human needs.
Beyond the immediate imperative to protect employees in the midst of the health crisis, business administration specialist Hubert Joly highlights how managers must take longer-term mental health needs into account as well as a sense of purpose. and the social well-being of their staff.
Historically, the so-called soft or interpersonal skills required to do this were not the primary focus of business and management training. Management theory was more focused on what managers do: plan, organize, coordinate and control.
This focus has long had its detractors, of course. One answer, supported by years of research, is that when business students engage in the arts and humanities at the university level, it can equip them with the additional skills they need.
Returning to the office after the lockdown put kindness, compassion and empathy at the top of employee wish lists. Workers now expect their managers to show more solidarity.
While long recognized as important leadership skills, the pandemic has made them more salient. And with changes in the workplace such as remote working and the increased use of virtual technology likely to be here to stay to some extent, the increased demand for such skills may also be ongoing.
When teams were sent home amid lockdown proceedings, our ability to collaborate was also significantly reduced. Collaboration has long been at the center of corporate culture and management methods. This is the key to the quality of work, innovation and employee engagement.
Companies emerging from the pandemic are therefore naturally keen to make their employees work efficiently again. It also makes cultural intelligence – defined as the skill by which you understand other cultures, learn from ongoing interactions, and adapt your thinking accordingly – even more important than before.
How can artistic studies help?
Students themselves are aware of the importance of human-centered skills, as well as critical thinking and creative problem solving. A survey of 1,000 Australian students in 2020 found that 88% believed soft skills were necessary for their future careers, with 78% agreeing such skills would give them an edge in an increasingly automated workplace.
These results are confirmed by a study carried out in 2021 among undergraduate aviation students in Australia. Respondents believed that soft skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and emotional intelligence would be highly needed in the post-pandemic economy.
People-centered skills are best learned by doing. This kind of experiential approach is something the arts have traditionally offered. Unlike a standard management conference, where students sit and listen to lecturers impart their knowledge, artistic majors – student dancers interacting in a dance routine, for example – focus on ideas and expression.
Since the 1980s, management education scholars have noted the impact of including poetry, music, and literature in business courses. In a 2002 study, American management theorist Robert Mockler examined how drama could also be used. He highlighted the leadership lessons found in Shakespeare – from Henry V and Coriolanus to King Lear – and the presentation, self-awareness and leadership skills to be learned from acting lessons.
Business students are more likely to take a financial accounting course or tutorial on the dynamics of organizational change than learning how to tell stories. Yet storytelling is a powerful communication tool both inside and outside of organizations. Stories allow companies to develop their own personalities and brands to build customer relationships.
Beyond techniques, a simple visit to an art museum can easily improve the critical thinking skills of any student – not just art history students. The arts engage us, as an audience, mentally, physically and emotionally. And they inspire us to understand and improve the world and ourselves. This can be one of their most powerful uses in education.
To this end, prospective students interested in a business and management degree should be encouraged to immerse themselves in additional arts and humanities courses. Better yet, they might seek an interdisciplinary degree where the arts and humanities are integrated into the curriculum.
American business schools often dabble in the liberal arts. But in the UK, business students will have to dig a little deeper to find a way to incorporate the arts into their studies. There are professional development courses, which include drama classes to promote self-awareness and creative writing classes.
Students can also learn these skills on their own. In A Whole New Mind, management scholar and author Daniel Pink recommends taking drawing lessons and going to storytelling festivals. It is about developing the right side of the brain, the side most often associated with soft skills.
Lucy Gill-Simmen, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, Royal Holloway University of London
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.