“Creativity is one of the most sought-after skills for 21st century leaders. VCU is at the cutting edge in recognizing the value that an artist’s perspective can bring to problem-solving and ideation in the business world.”
- Ed Grier, dean of the VCU School of Business.
The leaders of tomorrow will be creative leaders. They are leaders who feel capable and confident that they can be creative themselves and support the creativity of others. We believe we can enable tomorrow’s creative leaders today. And we can start with their business education.
THE ISSUE WE FACED
As a leading public business school, Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Business was already ahead of the curve. They had recently introduced a new strategic positioning – “Creativity at Work” – with the aspiration to infuse creativity into business education. But the question was, how? The expectations of business schools are to be serious and conservative. Plus, there was a faculty with long established points of view and methodologies that specifically did not include art or creative thinking at their heart. How could the VCU School of Business change the culture in the institution to embrace a creative mindset? ALR was up to the task.
HOW WE SOLVED
When our founder, Noah Scalin, spoke at the 2016 VCU Innovation Summit, he inspired Ken Kahn to embrace a truly groundbreaking idea. As the Senior Associate Dean at the School of Business, Kahn would invite Noah to become the country’s first artist-in-residence at a business school. We saw it as an opportunity to engage the future leaders of business and current educators in a creative atmosphere that would shift perceptions. So, we immediately got to work.
Over the course of the year-long engagement, our goal was to involve everyone, at every level, in this new culture of creativity. We didn’t present our presence as an alternative to business thinking, but as an activator and accelerator of business thinking. We organized Creative Sprints: multi-week group exercises in which participants had a creative task to complete, and were encouraged to share what they created with the others. We installed massive art installations within the atrium of the business school. Students, faculty and staff could all engage directly with Noah, talking to him, learning from him and seeing his pieces come to life. It stoked excitement in the students, which they quickly passed on to faculty – not to mention garnering national press. We spoke in classes, engaged the community, and led workshops. The residency acted as a year-long, on-the-ground consulting engagement and gave everyone practice in combining creativity with business.
For the duration of the residency, we engaged more than 4000 students. Many took what they learned into their business projects; taking their assignments to new levels and opening up new possibilities. We demonstrated to even the most senior faculty that creativity had a rightful place in their business curriculum.
Students took it upon themselves to organize creative clubs outside the influence of ALR and without a mandate from the school. We inspired the school to bring on their second artist-in-residence for the 2017-2018 academic year, continuing the program we initiated. We ensured the school made their strategic positioning come to life in a way that was memorable and engaging. And we won an award. The artist-in-residence program was named one of the 35 AACSB International Innovations That Inspire for 2017.
When we prepare the leaders of the future with the creative tools to face the decisions of tomorrow, we all benefit in ways we never imagined possible.