Arts Education Administrator Seeks Business Education for Radical Improvement

Posted by John Abodeely, Sep 16, 2011 0 comments

John Abodeely

I started getting my MBA this month. Most of the individuals I know professionally have asked me why.

I’m surprised at how clear I am on why:

1.  Innovation is a product of diverse knowledge.

I figured that I’d experience greater improvement in my professional performance if I earned an education in things I know little about. Applying new and different ways of thinking, tools, and professional contacts to existing work is likely to yield huge benefits. Learning about arts education or nonprofit administration may deepen my knowledge, but it would change my work less than an MBA. Productivity experts call this “breakthrough performance.”

(Yes, I know this assumes that improvement through differences is preferable to improvement through refinement. But I believe that our field as a whole will benefit from difference more than it will from refinement. If you care to, leave comments about this distinction. It is a fascinating debate, no?)

2.  You don’t know what you don’t know.

Our blind spots, over our tenure in one location or our careers (since we’re one person), calcify over time. Our mistakes become chronic simply because we make them repeatedly. I figured that doing something outside my comfort zone and outside my existing professional knowledge would illuminate ways of working and thinking that are less accessible to me now.

3.  Social entrepreneurship.

Is it possible to create for-profit business models with social missions? Are there market solutions to the challenges each of us tries to overcome each day? Is there a role for social entrepreneurship in arts education? In education? I guessed that business school would be an appropriate place to discuss these questions and to marshal resources to execute any viable ideas.

4.  We’re a business after all.

We all have customers to satisfy—ticket buyers, kids, teachers, funders. We all develop income/expense plans and expectations. Much of business school is understanding how basic corporate functions work, internally and externally. Nonprofit employees do the same thing, with a few differences.

All this means to say is that reinvention, change, and risk-taking are the options I’d recommend to begin to make a difference in what arts education is available now. If we really want to make change, we’ll have to change the way we do things.

This piece of career development is how I’m electing to do that.

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