It was not a long ago that Anthony Hopwood, a great management scholar and visionary, stated: ‘The world of business is so interesting but business schools are so boring!”. Why is this statement truer now more than ever?
There are different reasons.
The first relates to what business education is often about. It is an education that speaks the language of alignment, maximization, and clarity of purpose. Business, on the other hand, is about managing different views to make them work together while balancing different values not privileging one over others. It is about profiting from the ambiguity that the business world presents: visions, strategies, objectives, prices are intrinsically ambiguous, volatile and rich in meaning and it is by profiting from such volatility and richness that value emerges.
Business education tends instead to treat visions, strategies, objectives and prices as clear and measurable, reducing them to numbers to make them manageable rather than using such numbers to compose new visions of the future, to reflect on how an organization and its purpose can contribute to such a future, on what effects management actions generate and for whose benefit.
The world of business is about feelings, narratives, motivations, ambitions, dreams and passions and yet, business education rarely takes these into account, often treating them as a disturbance to the pursuit of given business objectives, rather than pursuing a wise balance.
The world of business is relevant today more than ever. As the Latin etymology of the word ‘society’ reveals (from socius, ‘ally’ and ‘companion’ and -ties, that is, how they are linked together), societies are about tying people together in a community. In our contemporary world, most of such ties are business and work related. Unless we rethink business education and practices, how we manage and work in companies and organizations, we cannot rethink societies and generate true social innovation.
This is why the arts are important.
For us, a true artist explores the liminal boundaries of our knowledge, feelings and passions through performing an open search that does not presuppose what is to be found. True arts are about investigating the limits, the unknowns. True business innovation is also about such limits and unknowns and in such pursuit it changes the world by building ties in organizations, economies and societies.
‘Truth is the end of the world’, Toni Servillo stated when personifying Andreotti in ‘Il Divo’, a film by Paolo Sorrentino. It is by pursuing a search that does not take truth for granted that we can explore the mystery and beauty of life; the mystery and beauty of business as a form of art that speaks to the heart rather than only to the head, a form of art that bridges the left and right side of our brains.