What all art genres have in common is they support the emergence of a skill set that is desperately needed in the Information Age. But what are those skills? It is European educational policy to emphasize the development of transversal skills. Examples of transversal skills are the ability to think critically, take initiative, problem solve and work collaboratively–all needed to equip individuals for today’s varied and unpredictable career paths. Transversal skills can also be called cross competencies or generic skills. In North America, “traditional academic disciplines still matter, but as content knowledge evolves at lightning speed, educators are talking more and more about process skills, strategies to reframe challenges and extrapolate and transform information, and to accept and deal with ambiguity.”[1] Various schools and colleges have started to put more emphasis on teaching not only creativity, innovation and change, but also the importance of failure.

Individuals in professional organizations both profit and not-for-profit, can learn important skills and competencies from art-based processes and methods. Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, made this comment a decade ago: “I believe that human values ultimately win out over mechanistic values or technology for its own sake in an increasingly technological world. Companies, especially high-techs, are not machines. They are collections of tremendously motivated and creative people, and it is their intrinsic motivation and their creativity that makes all the difference.”[2] Tim Leberecht, when he was still chief marketing officer of the global design and innovation firm Frog, also commented, “Indeed, the ’art’ of business has become more important as the ‘science’ grows ubiquitous. As Big Data and sophisticated analytical tools allow us to make our processes more efficient, intuition and creativity are fast becoming the only differentiating factors among competitors. Like any ‘soft asset,’ these qualities cannot be exploited, only explored. And like artists, innovators must cultivate creative habits to see the world afresh and create something new. Like art, true innovation has the potential to make our lives better. It connects and reconnects us with deeply held truths and fundamental human desires; meets complexity with simple, elegant solutions; and rewards risk-taking and vulnerability.”[3] What all those sources implicitly have in common is they suggest an enhanced competence profile that is necessary and that focuses more on the creative and social aspects, as these are the areas where people will continue to be superior to machines in the foreseeable future.

People who spend more time with art–creating or enjoying–establish multiple focuses, perspectives and viewpoints. The German word allgemeinwissen, or the French culture générale that already carry the idea of culture within and that both mean “broad knowledge,” are good synonyms for this. It is good to broaden one’s skill set and expertise towards what is demanded today, but it also offers an alternative to the dominant idea of a linear career and restricted life that comes with it. In the future, it is more likely that people will have multiple careers or occupations; therefore personally exploring one or many art genres, as a secondary yet equally relevant as the traditional career, is good for a fulfilled life and might as well lead to a more significant perception change when it comes to beliefs and attitudes towards what really matters. At the same time, engaging with individuals from various disciplines helps to create a more diverse and thus robust people network similar to what is known as the “artistic community” that supports, feeds, and nourishes but also questions, critiques, and challenges the person.

The broader ones experiences and connections in life are, the more open one is to new situations, change, and perceived risks. For individuals dealing with art can help to reduce fears and thus lower the barriers to developing an artistic attitude that is required in many disciplines today and going forward, not just business and science. Miha Pogacnik expands that thought and connects individual attitude with organizational context: “You need an environment and you need inner discipline with which you strive for that kind of state of mind. The environment supports your state of mind and your state of mind supports the environment.”

From individual to organization and from organization to society, the right attitude and actions can make a difference. We are convinced that artistic thinking and action can provide answers. Skills, competencies, methods, ways of thinking and emotional perceptions, as we know from how artists work, will help to deal with and shape the far-reaching changes of our time–for people, organizations and the global society. In all walks of life, the artistic individual will become the counterpart and balance to artificial intelligence.


[1] Laura Pappano, “Learning to think outside the box: Creativity becomes an academic discipline,” in The New York Times Online, February 5, 2014.
[2] Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Google, in Rob Austin and Lee Devin, Artful Making: What Managers Need to Know about How Artists Work, Prentice Hall, 2003, p. xix.
[3] Tim Leberecht, “What entrepreneurs can learn from artists,” Fortune.com, December 21, 2012.
Picture Source: Siyan Ren on unsplash.com

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