Teaching “Creativity & Business”

Posted by Tom Tresser, Nov 17, 2011 0 comments

Tom Tresser

On Saturday, January 15, 2011, I started teaching “Got Creativity? Strategies & Tools for the Next Economy” at the Stuart School of Business at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

I had twenty master’s degree students, almost evenly divided between those born in the United States and those from abroad (China, India, Saudi Arabia).

There are many compelling reasons for a business school to offer classes on creativity and innovation. We now live in what has been variously called the creative economy, the experience economy, and the age of creative industries.

It’s no secret that America makes more money and employs more people in the creative sectors than it does from making and moving stuff.

The total revenue of the U.S. copyright industries in 2007 was $1.5 TRILLION. That’s 1 point 5 followed by 12 zeros! In 2005 the U.S. copyright industries had foreign sales of about $110 billion. That dwarfed the foreign sales for the U.S. auto industry, which was about $70 billion.

But even more persuasive than the revenues and employment opportunities in the creative industry sector is the fact that the entire business arena – regardless of the type of business you are in – now demands a creative mindset.

IBM’s Institute for Business Value released a 2010 report, Capitalizing on Complexity – Insights from the Global Chief Executive Officer Survey. It is based on 1,500 face-to-face interviews with CEOs from 60 countries and across 33 industries. The top skill these leaders say they want to see in their managers over the next five years is CREATIVITY.

If you want to succeed in business, you need to be creative.

And so, after the students introduced themselves to one another using short PowerPoint presentations, I started my first performance. You can hear the first 13 minutes of this part of the class by clicking over to Evoca.com. I told the story of a master story teller whose amazing powers of creativity have moved tens of millions of people and caused them to spend almost $20 billion to experience this story in its various forms.

I read this:

Do you know where this is from? Sure you do. If you haven’t read it yourself, then your child, nephew, niece, grandchild, neighbor HAS surely read and enjoyed the magic of the Harry Potter series.

We talked about WHY this series of seven books has been such a sensation and why the stories have captivated so many people -- selling over 400 million copies in 63 languages.

“Imagination.” “Great story.” “Hype.” “Universality.” These were a few of the thoughts the students had. One student said that J.K. was able to get inside the heads of her characters. “Ah ha, “ I said, “What do you call it when you can see the world through the eyes of another?” “Empathy,” came the answer.


How important is empathy for conducting civic and commercial life in 2011? I’d say it’s critical. Are we teaching this in our business schools? In our law and engineering schools?

What about the power of a great story? The power of the imagination? The power of an unreasonable vision?

I urged the students to watch Ms. Rowlings’ 2008 commencement address to the undergraduates at Harvard University. This fantastic (and funny) 20 minute speech is a lesson on the benefits of failure and the need to give voice to your imagination. It is also pays tributes to the work of Amnesty International and offers words of wisdom on friendship.

So I opened my first class on creativity and business with a story on the power of stories -- on the power of the creative act. How someone created a fantastically successful entertainment enterprise from a few notebooks and an unlimited reservoir of imagination and persistence.

A story that is, by the way, about staying true to one’s inner character despite overwhelming odds and finding a diverse team to help you through your worst situations and to share your journeys, great and small.

Let the journey begin…Let the stories unfold.

Please login to post comments.