The Rome Business School course to learn and do business through art

by Ivonne Lopez

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”

(A. Einstein)

 Art as a tool for learning, art to communicate with culture.

Learning through art methods make it possible to access the sphere of knowledge through the exploration of new and original perspectives, entering into a relationship with others in a considerate, unique and, most of all, entrepreneurial way.

The Rome Business School intends to use art in its rich training potential. Art as a means to remove barriers and stereotypes, as a way to facilitate communication, as a development of creativity, as an opportunity for personal and collective insights. Art in its metaphoric value, a symbol of social and organisational life.

Art’s didactic value stems from its innate capability to generate a multitude of educational processes in individuals and stimulate a vast array of forms of learning. Art can be the context within which to nurture expressive potentialities and observational and relational capabilities, the starting point for an “artistic/educational” journey through which cognitive experience can be focused onto the integration in an international professional sphere. In fact, through art, it is possible to learn to communicate by means of a universal language where differences become riches. Together with an interactive educational design context, it is possible to pursue an even more innovative educational integration between technical and communicational training.

“To learn from art” means to begin from the observation of art in all its expressions, thus enhancing the capacity for “seeing”, developing curiosity and an interest for discovery. Further, the aesthetic/critical education involves in itself the crossing of various subject fields: humanistic, technological and scientific.

This is the approach to favour: the understanding and observation of the works in the artistic heritage as a tool to begin interdisciplinary training courses and activities that are suited to actual learning and development needs.

In this very perspective, Kolb’s [1] four stages of learning, besides defining the related styles (accommodating, diverging, converging, assimilating) that take snapshots of adults based on the various dominating aspects built over time, are the consequence of two tensions; one between concrete daily experience and abstract thought, the other between the active experimentation of innovative practices and reflective observation. Thus, Kolb has introduced to the literature the concept of experiential learning; a process in which knowledge is created through the observation and transformation of experience. This type of learning is conceived as a four stage cycle: the individual should initially start from concrete experience, i.e. from given specifics, from the observation of how something is done, to then move on to reflect and repeat what has been done, what has been experienced, through reflective observation. Then, the observed events must be interpreted in a bid to identify their mutual relationships: it must strive to generate abstract concepts and extend them to new situations through abstract conceptualisation; finally it must translate this new knowledge in expectations of which actions should be taken to correctly carry out a task and verify the concepts in new situations through active experimentation.

Schematically, this model can be summarised in the following phases:

the concrete experience (CE) stage, in which learning is mainly influenced by perceptions of and reactions to experience;

the reflective observation (RO) stage, in which learning is mainly influenced by listening and observing;

the abstract conceptualization (AO) stage, in which learning mostly takes on the form of systematic thought and problem analysis;

the active experimentation stage (AE) stage, in which learning is mostly influenced by acting, experimenting and observing the results;

If learning is understood as a reflection on actions, then knowledge is obtained through the observation of concrete experiences or through the understanding of abstract conceptualization, is transformed through reflective observation and is expanded through active experimentation. The theory of experiential learning has highlighted the importance of concrete experience in the learning process of adult individuals. “Learning trough experience” with moments of critical reflection has become a very important mode of personal and psychological development.

Starting from the aesthetic experience of artistic beauty to develop an ethical action, learning and entrepreneurial sphere, in order to act, learn and do business with due ethic responsibility..

The understanding and appreciation of art contributes to develop an awareness of the importance of an ethical commitment, aids in the learning process and facilitates the recognition of the value and importance of diversity.

The whole history of art is strewn with instances of exchanges and mutations between languages originating in different artists and places; to recognise the value and contributions of others in the sphere of artistic creation is an effective tool to initiate multicultural educational processes. Further, an education to art extends to involve the emotional sphere: the them of memory, recurring in cultural heritage, implies the activation of a series of learning mechanisms in which the cognitive aspect comes together with the affective-emotional one and imagination, thus providing the foundations for complex learning forms that involve the interaction of intelligences [2], increasing the motivations for learning.

The education to art is a complex process that does not only involve a specialised audience. It is characterised by experimental teaching and communication approaches capable of stimulating, entertaining and challenging the observer. The contact with works of art should stimulate curiosity, the capability of asking questions, rather than giving accepted answers: visiting an exhibition or watching a theatre show represent a chance to develop diversified forms of learning. Thus a new form of communication of art is reached, one that implies the awareness of the fact that the collection being exhibited or the show being performed should not be considered the medium through which the message should be transferred to the spectator, but a stimulus to decipher the message by developing the cognitive fluidity of thought [3] and simulating diverging thinking, that incorporates cognitive and creative components and is activated in those situations that allow for multiple paths for departure or development. Therefore, diverging thinking goes beyond what is integrated in the initial situation, expands outside the problem’s data closure, explores various directions and produces something new and different.

According to Guilford [4], the main aspects that distinguish creative thinking are: fluidity, flexibility, originality, elaboration, evaluation.

Fluidity is the capability of producing many ideas, without reference to their quality or suitability to the solution of the problem or to the improvement of the situation. Such capability resides in the richness and variety of the flow of thought that is fired up by a problematic situation. The larger the number of hypotheses, memories or fantasies that is generated, the higher the possibility that one of these cognitive elements may prove to be useful to solve the problem.

Flexibility, on the other hand, indicates the capability, within the flow of thought, of changing ideation strategy, i.e. to pass from one succession or chain of ideas to another, from one mindset or schematic to another, from one category of elements to another; in other words, the capability of carrying out various tasks, each of which requires a different solution strategy.

Originality consists in the capability of finding unusual or unique answers, i.e. answers that do not usually occur to other people or answers that, in a sample population, are given by only one individual. It must be considered that the originality of a given answer varies based upon the cultural context in which it is given.

Creative thinking can be an important component in specialised training, specifically for managerial training.

The main job of a manager is to keep up a constant communication with colleagues, customers and even with the company’s essence. Often, however, the message is unclear, there are misunderstandings, there are obstacles. This is where art and creativity can help, through new representations of our ideas, to make them as direct, incisive and sincere as possible, so that they can be expressed at their best. In a context, such as the managerial one, in which expectations and appearances play a fundamental role, creativity can help in taking on a less forma and more relaxed attitude.

The final aim of the encounters is to consolidate Marketing and Communication competencies through new and transversal forms, in order to enrich the managerial approach with an ethical and value oriented component that could represent the distinctive trait of a successful business. To learn and do business, it is not just important to do things constructively, but to want to do them, creating opportunities and transmitting a passion for one’s life and job.

[1] P. Boscolo, Psicologia dell’apprendimento. Aspetti cognitivi e motivazionali, Utet, 2006

[2] Cfr. Teorie di Gardener che individua diverse categorie di apprendimento presenti  in ogni individuo

[3] Laeng M., Nuovi lineamenti di pedagogia, ed La Scuola, 1992, Brescia

[4] Guilford J. P., tr. it La creatività, in Beaudot A. (a cura di), La creatività, Loescher, Torino, 1977.

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