Arts based training

Arts based training

A context for arts-based training and development in the workplace

In recent years, there has been a remarkable growth in the use of arts programs by corporations to meet a wide range of employee training and organizational development needs. In the U. S. alone, more than 400 of the Fortune 500 corporations and countless smaller firms employ arts-based learning in participatory workshops, skill-based training programs, hands-on consultancies with business units, individual and team coaching, case studies in-action, and lecture/demonstrations at leadership conferences. Companies use these various programs to foster creative thinking, promote the development of new leadership models, and strengthen employee skills in critical areas such as collaboration, conflict resolution, change management, presentation/public performance, and interculturalcommunication. This represents a dramatic shift in the boundaries that traditionally defined experiencesrelevant to the business world – a shift triggered by profound technological and socialchanges that have transformed the culture of business over the past decade.

Businesses today want to break away from their limitations, aim higher, and be a creative force for the greater good of the world. We need the transformative experiences the arts give us to thrive in a world of change. In ancient cultures, the mystery schools put students through initiations to overcome fear, learn something about their true nature, and gain self-actualization (self-mastery). The arts give us a taste of the mystery and help make sense of the world.

To do this, the worlds of the arts and business are formulating new relationships, distinct from the traditional models of entertainment or sponsorship. As Miha Pogacnik, a concert violinist and cultural ambassador to Slovenia, argues: “The world of arts must be rescued out of the prison of entertainment and the world of business must be led out of the desert of dullness of meaning!” In this new relationship, art is a role model for business, since all great art pushes boundaries beyond the established norms. Thus, it can teach us about aesthetics, ambiguity, diversity, chaos, change, courage, and complexity. According to British aesthetician, Sir Herbert Read, “The artist’s task is to break through the limitations of previously codified knowledge, to lead humanity to the future.”

The arts take us on adventures in creative expression that help us explore safely unknown territory, overcome fear, and take risks. We can transfer these learning experiences to the workplace. Art-making has an alchemical effect on the imagination. Art takes people out of the realm of analytical thinking and into the realm of silence, reverie, and heightened awareness. In my own work with organizations, I’ve noticed this shift in consciousness creates a crucible for deep conversation, from which emerges trust, caring, camaraderie, and genius-level thinking. A shared art experience enhances our sense of belonging and enriches conversation.

— From Chapter 2, "Orchestrating Collaboration at Work: Using music, improv, storytelling and other arts to improve teamwork" by Arthur B. VanGundy and Linda Naiman (Wiley 2003)

Arts based training can be defined as employee or staff development training (such as team building, communication/listening skills) which is delivered using the arts (music, visual art, drama etc). It is used in many sectors in business from solicitors and law firms, to local councils and community-based organisations. In the United Kingdom it began to be used in the 1990s, primarily in London, and has now spread through the country. In the United States, arts organizations like Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Second City Theatre, along with individual practitioners such as visual artist Todd Siler and jazz musician Michael Gold pioneered this field at about the same time. In recent years, organisations all over the world have begun to adopt artsbased learning.

The arts-in-business is a growing phenomena world-wide

Lotte Darsø, author of "Artful Creation: Learning-Tales of Arts-in-Business" was the first to map the interplay between arts and business in Europe and North America. The key questions asked in her research were: "In what ways can business learn from artists," "What can be learned?," and "What kind of learning takes place?" Darsø proposes two approaches for Arts-in-Business: the Arts applied as an instrument for teambuilding, communication training, leadership development, problem-solving and innovation; and the Arts integrated as a strategic process of organisational transformation.

Organizations using the arts in training and development

Terry McGraw, chairman and CEO of The McGraw Hill Companies, characterizes creativity as a “business imperative,” and puts his companies’ successful experiences with arts-based learning in a broad strategic context of “surfacing creativity” through engagement with the arts.

Creativity is essential because it is at the heart of innovation, and innovation is a growth driver and, therefore, a business imperative. That is why, for several years, The McGraw-Hill companies has been using arts-based learning as a training tool in several key leadership initiatives…the arts have served as a complementary vehicle to more traditional learning approaches. They have helped to change attitudes by letting employees confront their assumptions in a nontraditional and non-intimidating environment….The results of using arts-based learning and training have been very positive for The McGraw-Hill Companies…Arts-based training is part of an overall strategy and commitment of the corporation to help ‘surface’ creativity — Journal of Business Strategy (Harvey Seifter, 2005)

Keith Weed, Chairman, Lever Fabergé sees employee involvement as a key part of developing and sustaining an innovative and creative business. Catalyst, their internal arts and creativity program “brings artists and arts organisations into the business to motivate, inspire, challenge and unlock the potential of our staff, on both a professional and personal level. Artists and arts organisations come into the workplace to tackle specific business issues, from creative thinking to leadership styles and writing skills.”

In reviewing "The Art of Business: Make All Your Work a Work of Art" (Davis, 2005) Tom Peters commented:

The authors persuasively argue that we are entering an economy which will value—insist upon!—a new way of looking at value creation. They call it moving from an emphasis on "economic flow" (input-output) to "artistic flow." The altered nature of enterprise, the "four elements" of new business thinking: "See yourself as an artist." "See your work as a work of art." "See your customers as an audience." "See your competition as teachers."

Companies which have used the arts for training and development purposes such as visioning, communication, customer service, and team development, include: ABN AMRO, American Express, AstraZeneca, AT&T, BBC, British Airways, Coca-Cola, Daimler-Chrysler, Dell Computers, Ericsson, Halifax, Hewlett Packard, Honeywell, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Kodak, Lever Faberge, Lockheed Martin, Marks & Spenser, Mattel, Nike, Pfizer, real Networks, Saatchi & Saatchi, Sears, Shell, Siemens, Skandia, Unilever, and the World Bank.

External links

* [ Article about arts based training]

[] The Intersection of Art and Business: A context for arts-based training and development in the workplace

[] Arts-based Learning examples: Visual Thinking

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