Designing and Implementing Arts-Based Initiatives

Posted by Giovanni Schiuma, Nov 16, 2011 0 comments

Giovanni Schiuma

Today many organizations have discovered the benefits related to the use in business of the arts in order to explore and solve business issues.

Unilever has largely used arts-based initiatives (ABIs) to spur people’s change and to develop organizational culture. Nestlé has used ABIs to enhance marketing team’s creativity and to develop communication skills and collaboration in terms of ideas and expertise sharing.

Atradius has captured brand value by developing a partnership with Welsh National Opera. Price Waterhouse Coopers has used ABIs to unlock employees’ creativity energy, inspiring and challenging people to think and act differently.

Indeed the arts, in the form of ABIs, represent a powerful management tool for developing workforce and organizational infrastructure that can drive business performance improvements.

Examples can range from the use of art forms to entertain organizations’ employees and clients, to the deployment of arts to develop ‘soft competencies’ of people in the organization, and may include the exploitation of the arts to create intangible value to be incorporated into products or to transform and enhance organization’s infrastructural assets such as, for instance, image, identity, reputation, culture, and climate.

As organizations are searching for new solutions to engage and improve the working life of their people, face difficult management challenges, generate experience-based market value, and spur resilience and "innovativeness," the ABIs can sustain organizations to find new possible solutions to the emergent business problems.

However the deployment of the arts to support organizational value creation doesn’t simply mean to bring in organizations artists and artworks as something nice and different to have for socio-cultural reasons; thought this can be relevant for supporting the art world, the adoption of the arts to deal with business problems requires that ABIs are designed and implemented as management initiatives for business performance improvements.

For this reason the ABIs have to be integrated and aligned with the organization’s strategy and operations in order to make sure that they impact on organizational capabilities and infrastructure. They have to be understood as managerial instruments aimed at managing the organizational aesthetic experiences and properties within and around organizations.

In order to make sure that the ABIs significantly contribute to achieve business performance improvements objectives, they have to be managed according to a management cycle including five fundamental steps as follows:

  1. Plan – identification of the management challenges and business problems to be faced through the use of the arts;
  2. Design – envisioning the impacts and the characteristics of the ABIs;
  3. Implementation – understanding and monitoring the dynamics and working mechanisms of the ABIs;
  4. Assessment – accounting and evaluating the benefits and impacts produced by the adoption of the ABIs;
  5. Review – identification of the successful and hampering factors affecting the impact of ABIs on the enhancement of organizational value creation capacity.

Each of these steps needs to be supported by appropriate frameworks that play the twofold role of shaping a common language between the business people and the artists; and support the arts architects and artists to define the business benefits of the ABIs.

With this scope the book - The Value of Arts for Business - proposes three models that show how it is possible to successfully implement and manage ABIs that produce positive impacts on business performance.

Firstly, the Arts Value Matrix enables managers and arts architects to understand how organizational value-drivers can be affected and developed by ABIs.

Secondly, the Arts Benefits Constellation shows how to assess the benefits of using ABIs acknowledging their power as instruments to develop an organization’s knowledge-based domains.

Finally, the Arts Value Map proposes a methodology to make sure that ABIs are integrated and aligned with organizational strategy and operations as well as supports the assessment of the ABIs’ impact on business performance.

Therefore executives and arts architects, searching for a successful integration of the arts in business, are warned to approach the adoption of ABIs with the support of appropriate assessment frameworks to avoid that the experience of business with arts is simply entertaining or in some cases even detrimental.

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