Thursday, May 8, 2008


The Master of Fine Arts is the new MBA, so argues author Daniel Pink.

I think we know this subconsciously, or why else would we laugh so easily at the PC Man v. Apple Guy commercials. We know deeply that more authentic, creative, and meaningful trumps expertise which is often myopic, arrogant, and limited, (much less limiting). Not that the choice is either/or. The choice is which would I prefer, expertise alone or expertise with authenticity, creativity, and meaning? Duh! It's like do I want ice cream alone or ice cream with mix-ins and toppings?!

Creating art, whether it is writing or visual arts or songwriting, requires vision, strategic planning, patience, disciplined effort, reflective reasoning, and critical thinking. Recent Conversation Starter posted by Katherine Bell, a senior editor at, discusses how her art training was really pretty good management training. In hindsight, she realized that she had spend two years practicing disciplined imagination -- a requirement for innovation. Here is her list of 4 great lessons an MBA might learn from an MFA:

1. How to take criticism. In a writing workshop, each writer must remain silent while others discuss his work. This rule allows him to hear what people say, rather than distracting himself by preparing his defense. Train yourself to listen openly to all criticism. Then wait until you’ve had a chance to reflect before deciding which suggestions to follow and which to ignore.

2. What motivates people. Everyone’s mix of motives is unique and complex. The more you can intuit the secret desires that drive a person (whether a fictional character or a colleague or your boss), the better you can predict what she’s going to do next. If you figure out what motivates the people who report to you, you’ll be able to tailor incentive to each individual.

3. How to engage your audience. Good fiction writers know how to involve readers in acts of collaborative imagination. Readers like to be challenged -- part of the pleasure is guessing the murderer’s identity before being told -- but if they can’t follow the plot, they get frustrated. Companies competing in the experience economy need to get this balance right. Customers, like readers, do not like to be bored or confused. They like to feel smart and creative and listened to. That’s one reason companies that involve their customers in idea generation, like Dell, Staples, and BMW, rate highly in customer loyalty.

Knowing how to keep your team engaged is an important skill for all managers, but it’s critical if you want to succeed at innovation. Again, involving team members in the creative process is the key.

4. When to let go of good ideas. Or, as writers like to say, kill your darlings. An idea may be great on its own, but if it doesn’t serve your larger venture, you have to be ruthless and cut it. Brilliant but misplaced ideas can derail a project or keep you from seeing bigger, better solutions. It can be almost impossible to recognize your own darlings. Writers have editors to point them out. In the business world, look for honest feedback from colleagues you trust.

1 comment:

carlos9900 said...

Master of Fine Arts is the new MBA...
Very interesting concept. I'm looking forward to have stronger ties with the guys in Arts.