Chapter 5.2 What can art-based methods bring to management education?

One of the first questions scholars studying art-based methods in management education have to deal with is the question of whether art-based methods primarily are ways of making management education more entertaining and attractive to clients by including unfamiliar and exciting elements from the world of art or whether art-based methods provide something unique, which cannot be provided by other teaching-methods used in management education, such as lecturing, project-based teaching, case-based teaching, business games or role play simulations. The answer to this question is important because it will tell us whether art-based methods are valuable in their own right or only as ways of supporting other methods. It is also an important question to answer, because if art-based methods do in fact provide means of achieving unique learning outcomes, then educators need to know what these unique learning outcomes are in order to skillfully use art-based methods and evaluate the results. The vast majority of scholars studying art-based methods in management education do so because they passionately believe art has something substantial to offer both managers and society at large. They are, therefore, naturally inclined to find arguments for the value of these methods. Successfully arguing for the value of art-based methods have the further advantage for scholars that they in this way can create a new and interesting niche for themselves in the academic world and secure funding for research in to a field they believe is worth pursuing and ultimately have the potential of making positive contributions to society. Such factors can impel scholars to cease on kinds of value of art, which are easily understood (for example when placed in grant applications), and give less attention to more important kinds of value provided by art, if such value is more difficult to convey convincingly in written form.

A common way of making arguments for the value of art-based methods is by presenting art-based methods as ways of facilitating learning processes, which are already accepted as valuable in management education. This is a very practical and quick way of establishing the legitimacy of art-based methods and, thus, securing the possibility of doing further research in the area. Thus, scholars have advocated art-based methods by drawing on a large amount of established theories, which have already earned respect in the field of management education. These theories include theories of reflection, Argyris and Schön’s double-loop learning, critical reflection, Jack Mezirow’s transformative learning, reflexivity, psychoanalytical theories, depth psychology, theories of art-therapy, Otto Scharmer’s Theory-U, Karl Weick’s sense-making theory, Lewin’s model of organizational change, Kolb’s experiential learning, and Heron’s extended epistemology (references are given throughout the chapter).

Steve Taylor and Donna Ladkin (2009) created a typology consisting of four categories into which they organize the types of learning processes scholars have identified in concrete cases of art-based methods in management education. These categories can also be seen as four overall ways of arguing the value of art-based methods. In the following, I present each of these four processes, show why they are of importance to managers, and give examples of how art-based methods have been used to facilitate these processes. Finally, I use the concept of sensory templates to contemplate the relationship between the art-based methods and each of the four processes they are seen to facilitate. In particular, I argue that art-based methods can be used to identify and to some extent provide alternative sensory templates, thus assisting managers in finding solutions to problems that seem unsolvable to them – as described in last chapter. Furthermore, I argue that engaging with art for its own sake can bring about more profound beneficial changes in managers related to the experience of using fewer sensory templates to structure one’s experience. I expand on the benefits of learning to set aside sensory templates in chapter six.

At the end of the chapter, I discuss how the literature on art-based methods in management education draws on two bodies of literature, which are based on two different views of cognition: Literature on managerial learning is mainly based in the older symbolic view, whereas the philosophy of art is more based in the embodied view. I argue that this produces an unaddressed tension in the resulting theories.