We Aren't Preparing Young People for Careers at Disney or Apple

Posted by Lisa Phillips, Jan 14, 2013 9 comments

Lisa Phillips with Steve Wozniak


There seems to be a major disconnect between how creativity is valued in society and the career advice we give our children. We all know that the arts are a valuable means of expression, a means to share stories across cultures and an uplifting and moving source of entertainment. We revere our cultural icons, whether they are movie stars, literary authors or artists, but we seem to limit the possibility of careers in the arts to only a talented few. How many of us arts professionals have heard from family and friends, “When are you going to get a real job?” So, why do we put our cultural icons on a pedestal but undervalue arts education?

I think one of the reasons is that as a society we are preoccupied with the idea that the arts are reserved only for those with talent. However, in the reality of today’s job market, we need to change this idea. There is a significant gap between what children are told is important for their future career success and what business leaders actually want from the emerging workforce. Creative individuals are actually in demand. Not just for arts careers, but for careers in business as well. For example, Disney and Apple are two of the most successful companies of our time, largely because of the creativity, innovation, and the leadership they have demonstrated in their respective industries. In an era when businesses are constantly struggling to find creative ways to stay at the top of their market, arts education can be a powerful tool to nurture the creative abilities of our young people, ensuring they are ready for the skills that are in demand.

Lisa Phillips with Michael Eisner


I have had the unique pleasure of learning from some of the top business and marketing experts in the world including Jay Abraham, Eric Trump, Steve Wozniak (Co-Founder of Apple), Stedman Graham (expert in identity development and branding), and Michael Eisner (former CEO of Disney) to name a few. One of the consistent messages I hear from all of these successful business leaders is the importance of creativity in business. Top CEO’s around the world are seeking out new employees who can think creatively, be innovative in business development and marketing strategies and show outstanding leadership qualities that will “wow” clients. This is what businesses need to compete in the global marketplace.

In a 2010 study by IBM, interviews with CEO’s representing 33 industries and 60 countries identified creativity as the most important leadership skill for the future. The problem is, our children are not spending their formative years honing this crucial skill. They are spending thousands of hours practicing math, science, history and other core subjects in the hopes of getting into excellent universities and gaining a highly coveted degree. A degree is important, but what about when it’s time to get a job? Let’s face it, in today’s marketplace a university degree is a bare minimum, much like a high school diploma was decades ago. Everyone has a degree…so what? What matters most is what is going to set young people apart from their peers. What is their competitive edge? Remember, the job market is very different now than it was 20 years ago. Competition for jobs is now global and if young people are going to succeed in any career they need to stand out. We are doing our children a disservice by not preparing them for the challenges that lie ahead.

The point is that we are all creative and if we nurture that creativity then we can all find the career success we desire. So, what if our young people spent thousands of hours as they grew up honing their creativity through participating in performing and visual arts programs? What if they studied leadership skills so they knew how to communicate effectively, find solutions to challenges and build relationships that would help them achieve success? They would be prepared for whatever life threw at them, whether it was a career in the arts or business or something else. If CEO’s of some of the largest companies in the world are craving talent who can think creatively, find solutions to challenging problems, build relational capital with clients and partners, communicate effectively, and adapt to constantly changing global market why aren’t we teaching our children how to do that? I firmly believe that arts education not only teaches creativity, but also, when the facilitators are intentional, it has the capacity to teach countless other important leadership skills. So, let’s squash the myth of the talented few and embrace the idea that arts education should be for anyone who wants to soar to the top of the interview pile and meet the growing demand for creativity in the marketplace.

(Editor’s Note: Lisa recently released a book, The Artistic Edge, which explores why leadership skills taught through the arts are what young people need most to be successful in life.)

9 responses for We Aren't Preparing Young People for Careers at Disney or Apple


January 14, 2013 at 5:11 pm

Thanks for sharing this powerful message. In California, we are promoting the idea of a "creativity index" to assess how well schools foster creativity, whether through the arts or other means. Here's a video making the case: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hehGcVGEBsY

Mark Slavkin
Board Chair
California Alliance for Arts Education

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Elizabeth Bagby says
January 14, 2013 at 7:27 pm

As an artist related to quite a few scientists, I want to point out that science and mathematics actually DO involve quite a bit of creativity--when they are taught well. Unfortunately, that almost never happens in schools obsessed with standardized tests. Good science has far less to do with finding the right answer than with embracing and understanding mistakes. (As one of my sister's bio professors put it, "If more than 5% of your experiments come out as you expected, you're not being creative enough.") Teaching creativity will require more than shoehorning arts classes into today's curricula; it will require redesigning the curricula entirely, so that students learn how to think rather than how to regurgitate information.

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January 16, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Well said. Similar points made in my book "Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music."
Here's a synopsis:

Keep fighting the good fight!

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January 18, 2013 at 6:34 pm

By way of a good friend, I just learned of your organization and this delightful blog topic. As a former designer at Apple and now a design learning facilitator, I'd like to share an effort that may serve as fodder for further conversations.

IDSA Design Learning Challenge 2013 | www.designlearning.us

In partnership with the National Art Education Association, all K-12 educators and students are invited to participate in the Design Learning Challenge 2013.

The learners’ (students) challenge will be to report on a topic of choice, working in a collaborative manner toward critical and creative inquiry. With an option to team up with college design students, facilitators (teachers) will guide learners as they investigate their challenge and make decisions. Results should reflect innovative outcomes that create positive impact on an existing classroom endeavor, an unresolved school climate issue, an identified neighborhood improvement need, or a beckoning community awareness project.

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January 18, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Thank you Mark, Elizabeth, Craig and Doris for your comments about my article! I look forward to checking out the links you have shared. Please check out my site for more articles from me and my team as well as free bonuses from my book, The Artistic Edge: 7 Skills Children Need to Succeed in an Increasingly Right Brain World.


Artistically yours,

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January 22, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Love that video. A little extreme, but makes such a great point! Thanks so much for sharing it.

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tillson says
January 22, 2013 at 1:52 am

And here's what you get when you value the standardized exams over the "electives". http://youtu.be/dY2mRM4i6tY

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February 18, 2013 at 5:12 am

This is quiet interesting.Thank You for the article.

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D.Mohanapriya says
June 18, 2013 at 2:26 pm

'Art shows a heart' of the Artist.

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