A post yesterday on the Drucker Exchange blog caught my eye instantly. How could it not when it started (my emphasis),
The story is told that when Peter Drucker was asked how to become a better manager, he replied: “Learn how to play the violin.”
This was, apparently, Drucker’s way of saying that the best managers and knowledge workers are excellent critical thinkers, creative and open to learning new things—just a few of the attributes that, according to a recent article in Time, seem to be in increasingly short supply among recent college graduates.
…The magazine cited several surveys showing that large and growing numbers of job applicants lack “communication and interpersonal skills” or are weak when it comes to “communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration.”
The article goes on to cite Peter Drucker saying that lack of social skills shouldn’t be the biggest disqualifier for a position because you are hiring them for their brains, not to act as a social director. It goes on to quote Drucker encouraging companies to hire someone based on the strengths they bring where the company is lacking rather than trying to hire to the job description.
But the entry later quotes a talk Drucker gave where he says the employee needs to be responsible for managing themselves. (this link isn’t the talk, but an article Drucker wrote on the topic.)
“For the first time in human history, we will have to take responsibility for managing ourselves,” Drucker declared during a 1999 talk he gave in Los Angeles. “This is probably a much bigger change than any technology, this change in the human condition. Nobody teaches it—no school, no college—and it will probably be another hundred years before anybody does teach it. In the meantime, the achievers . . . will have to learn to manage themselves, to build on their strengths, to build on their values.”
Drucker may be right that these skills are not taught directly in schools, but some part of them are required in the practical activities of performing arts classes. Teamwork, goal setting, communication, vision, deadlines, it is all there and is ultimately tested when the curtain goes up. All these things can be learned in a classroom or by participating in activities of your local theatre/dance/music ensemble.
(Though certainly recognition of and building your own strengths and values is always going to be something you have to develop on your own.)
There is a question of whether performing arts students are being properly prepared to perform and work in the new modes of expression and communication that will emerge in the future. Because we don’t know what those modes will be, the question is really more about instilling flexibility and creativity of thinking as well as a degree of entrepreneurship.
But is it enough? We keep seeing articles like the one in Time magazine cited on The Drucker Exchange or whenever people reference the IBM study where CEO valued creativity as crucial to ensure the future of their companies.
And yet an ever increasing number of standardized tests are administered every year despite the fact that the only standardized test you are regularly required to pass as an adult is your tax return. And they have software and people that will help you out by soliciting information from you.
The arts aren’t the sole source of creativity in the world, and the CEOs in the IBM study weren’t specifically looking for creativity as it manifests in the arts, but it seems like there is a huge unmet need out there and maybe arts people need to sit down and figure out how package it for Fortune 500 companies if they are so desperate for it.
It probably can’t be done in the same fashion as in college art classes. Drucker is right when he suggests that there is no formal way to teach soft skills. You can’t put together a 40 hour course on being creative and issue certificates confident at having instilled the ability in your pupils.
And yet, people commit acts of creativity every day. Some times with as much effort as it takes the grass to grow, other times with much angst, but with the knowledge and confidence that they are capable of it.
But it seems that finding a method to monetize effectively teaching/instilling creativity is about the only way these days to convince people not to dismiss liberal arts as a pursuit and that there is a Way of learning that does not embrace standardize testing.