February 4, 2005
News & Opinion: What You Can Learn from the Arts
I find that I am starting to be influenced by Evelyn Rodriguez. If you read here stuff regularly, you'll find each post is based on an idea she has been thinking about and all material she has run across in the last couple of weeks that relates to it. This is one of those posts.
Halley Suitt linked to a book the other day called The Two Cultures. The book is about the chasm that exists between liberal studies and the hard sciences and the social consequences of that in the world.
A little later that day, I was wandering through the HBS Working Knowledge site and found a three part series on leadership and great books [one, two, three]. The first two part are about HBS professor Joseph L. Badaracco. He teaches a leadership course to MBA students and literature is the basis for the course. Some of the books that the students read include:
- Things Falling Apart by Chinua Achebe
- A Man for All Seasons by Richard Bolt
- The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
- The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
- American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It by Richard Hofstadter
In the final installment, Working Knowledage interviewed literary critic Harold Bloom. He recommends businesspeople read Shakespeare, Emerson, and Freud. On Freud:
Businesspeople should not be put off by the fact that he's considered the father of psychoanalysis—which is almost a sect within American psychiatric medicine. There is no twentieth-century writer—not even Proust or Joyce or Kafka—who rivals Freud as the central imagination of our age. Freud is a powerful rhetorician, a subtle ironist, and the most fascinating of all really polemical writers in the Western intellectual tradition. Indeed, I believe that Freud's conceptions are so magnificent that they now form the only Western mythology that contemporary intellectuals have in common.
My final thought on the idea of arts and science is the idea of right brain and left brain thinking. And that would lead me to Dan Pink's new book A Whole New Mind. In the book, he argues that if your career is based on left brain thinking, you are going to be fighting some strong forces - Asia, automation, and abundance. To get a sense of what you are up against, read Dan's essay in Wired this month. Not to worry, Dan talks about concepts that he thinks are going to rise to prominence - Story, Empathy, Design, Symphony, Play and Meaning. He says the Masters in Fine Arts is the new MBA.
Maybe us business types can learn some things from the arts.
What do you think?