I love STEM. Without STEM students, there wouldn’t be doctors, or the engineers who put together the Inc.com site. Big data has revolutionized the way business is done, and it would be impossible without STEM skills. But when young people ask me what they should study, I always encourage them to consider liberal arts.
This surprises a lot of them. Isn’t STEM the way of the future? Isn’t an English degree a waste of money? Who will hire a theatre major? But students ignore the value of liberal arts at their own peril. The truth is that the liberal arts will actually become more important as the world becomes increasingly computerized and automated.
Businesses will need people to translate computer language into human language. When big data analytics uncovers a hidden pattern, someone needs to draw conclusions from the information and develop an action plan. If a robot breaks down, someone needs to explain to management why it happened - and why it won’t happen again.
October is National Arts and Humanities Month, a cause close to my heart. I graduated with a degree in theatre from Humboldt State University, and I’ve used what I’ve learned in the arts in every aspect of my business career. I’ve written before about the leadership lessons that can be gleaned from the art world, and about why artists can make great entrepreneurs. Artists provide critical skills that companies need to succeed.
Here are more reasons why you should hire someone from the arts:
1. Fresh Perspective
Hiring an artist is like getting an injection of creativity. Leaders can use this to better market to their customers, and to better connect with their employees. Artists aren’t afraid to be unconventional, but they have no time for inauthenticity. Having these elements as part of your company culture is a great way to attract high quality candidates, and will appeal to the right kind of customers.
2. Agility, with Mission Focus
Artists are open-minded by nature. They solicit and embrace feedback from others, and can recognize good ideas regardless of the source. Critically, they can then execute those ideas and make them reality. Throughout it all, artists stay laser focused on the greater mission. When directors give instructions, they are always thinking about how small changes will impact the show as a whole. These are all skills that leaders count on in their employees. Bosses need to know that their employees will implement plans and solve problems in a way that’s consistent with the company’s core values.
3. Budget Management
The arts are chronically underfunded. If you’re looking for an employee who can stretch the value of a dollar, the arts are a great place to look. Artists use their creativity, open-mindedness, and pain tolerance to make it work. They’re able to stay on course no matter the budgetary constraints, and produce something that looks and feels like money was no object.
4. Personality Tolerance
The arts are full of people with personality - and the spectrum of personality is wide! Imagine putting together a theatre production. You have to work with an idealistic writer, a Method actor, a union stagehand, and a theatre director trying to keep donors happy. People in the arts are used to handling a variety of personalities and balancing competing interests while keeping everyone happy and working together. It’s a skill any office can benefit from, and can help keep your company humming.
5. Content Over Medium
This is perhaps the most important reason you should hire someone from the arts. With constantly changing technology and evolving tastes of customers, it can be difficult for business to find the right way to connect with employees and consumers. But here’s what many business leaders forget: the method of communication doesn’t matter if the content is garbage. To reach your desired audience, your content needs to make an impact. Artists are expressive, and know how to use humor, trauma, and beauty to make an emotional impact on the audience. No matter the medium, artists can effectively communicate your message, helping your culture blossom and your business grow.