According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, the world as we know it has changed forever, and a new kind of ‘adaptive’ leader is needed for businesses or organisations that want to thrive in the future.
Creative thinking is key when it comes to managing a permanent state of chaos and crisis. We all need to constantly embrace new technologies and learn new ways of living and working. Flexibility, imagination, and the ability to help others respond to change… can these skills be learned at university?
Liberal arts or humanities degrees may be the answer. For many years, in certain countries, they have been seen as a second-class alternative if you’re ‘not smart enough for med school or law school.’ In those countries, they often received less research funding and attention than science-based subjects. Yet in America, many top law schools and med schools actively recruit graduates from liberal arts colleges.
That’s because these degrees teach you to think outside the box. Drawing on a wide range of social science or arts subjects, you will learn how to think logically about different problems, come up with a range of solutions, and persuade others of your opinion. In philosophy, politics, sociology or literature, there is often no right or wrong answer.
With so many specialisations to choose from, you can choose subjects that truly inspire you, rather than just a vocational subject that will land you the appropriate job on graduation. Geography, media studies, anthropology, foreign languages and cultural studies, history or fine arts? There are literally hundreds of different courses that go some way to explaining what shapes us as people.
If you’re still not convinced of the importance of a creative approach to education, check out Sir Ken Robinson’s inspiring TED talk on how ‘schools kill creativity’. He believes that creativity in education is as important as literacy.
Future leaders who have a creative mindset may make all the difference between an organisation succeeding and failing. As a Washington Post article recently noted, “If all you want to do is cut costs, then you don’t need a leader; you need an accountant.” But if you want to launch the next iPad, or overcome a difficult business or political challenge in another culture, you need to think big, think creatively, understand what motivates others… and persuade them to agree with you.
So, if you’re thinking about an arts and humanities degree, also consider the different styles of teaching arts in different countries. In the US, it’s quite common to study a wide range of humanities subjects at a specialist liberal arts college, and then perhaps go onto post-graduate study in another discipline, such as an MBA or Law degree. Liberal arts colleges aim to provide you with general knowledge and broad intellectual capabilities.
The focus here is on the students, and students work very closely with the faculty and their teachers. They are empowered with critical-thinking skills and the ability to reason rationally, and develop an understanding of moral and ethical responsibilities. Skills we certainly need in our future leaders.
In Australia, Canada and New Zealand, you’ll find an arts faculty within all major universities – which also gives you the opportunity to combine arts with another undergraduate degree, such as arts and law, or arts and commerce. A Bachelor of Arts typically takes three years to complete, but you can choose to study Honours for another year. In the UK, the history of awarding arts degrees goes back hundreds of years and the experience varies between modern universities and ancient universities such as Oxford or Cambridge.
There are many exciting opportunities to study arts, all over the world. And they will all help you prepare for the challenges of leadership tomorrow.
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