What Would Happen If Every MBA Program Required an Art Certificate to Graduate?
By Theo Edmonds
January 10, 2023

The thought of a business school mandating its MBA students to have a certificate in art before graduating may seem far-fetched. But, is it? Or, could it be a competitive advantage for entrepreneurs and business leaders in our “brain economy.”

Brain Economy: What It Means for Businesses

What is the Brain Economy? 

At its core, the brain economy is about leveraging knowledge and intellectual capital to create value. In other words, it’s about using information and ideas as raw materials to develop new products and services. This means that businesses must be willing to invest in developing new ideas, technologies, processes, and products, as well as collaborating with others to stay ahead of the competition. The idea behind the brain economy is that by investing in knowledge and ideas, businesses will be able to create more value than simply relying on traditional resources such as raw materials or labor. 

How Does It Impact Business? 

The impact of the brain economy on businesses cannot be overstated. By investing in knowledge-based activities such as research & development (R&D), marketing & sales strategies, training & development programs, etc., businesses can increase their profits while simultaneously creating a more sustainable business model. Additionally, these investments often serve as an important source of innovation which can lead to increased customer loyalty and market share. Furthermore, investments in knowledge-based activities also help businesses remain competitive in an ever-changing global market where traditional methods are becoming less effective at driving growth. 

Brain Economy Relies on Brain Health. Neuroscience is Proving the Power of Art in Brain Health 

It’s well known that art has the power to evoke emotion and can often be used as a form of self-expression. But have you ever considered the impact art might have on your brain health and the ability to embody critical future of work skills that every industry and business leader will need? Neuroscience has been exploring this relationship, and the results are impressive. 

  1. Art Stimulates Creativity & Problem-Solving Skills: Neuroscience research has found that when we engage in art-making activities of many kinds, our brains experience increased activity related to creativity, problem-solving, and decision-making. Additionally, studies have shown that engaging with visual arts increases activity in regions associated with empathy and emotional understanding. 
  2. Art Enhances Cognitive Function & Memory Retention: Cognitive function is an important factor for overall brain health. Studies examining the impact of visual arts on cognitive function have found that engaging with visual arts improves our ability to remember information and recall memories more accurately than those who do not engage in artistic activities. This suggests that by participating in artistic activities regularly, our cognitive functioning can be improved over time.  
  3. Art Can Reduce Stress & Anxiety Levels: One of the most common benefits associated with art is its ability to reduce stress and anxiety levels. Neuroscience research has found that engaging with art can reduce cortisol levels (the “stress hormone”). This can help us become better equipped to manage stressful situations more effectively and make better decisions while under pressure. 
  4. Art Promotes Neuroplasticity & Connectivity: Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life—this process is essential for learning new skills or adapting to changes in our environment over time. Studies examining the impact of visual arts on neuroplasticity have found that engaging with visual art increases connectivity between different brain regions—thus promoting healthy neuroplasticity over time. 
  5. Art Improves Mood & Increases Sense of Wellbeing: Engaging with art doesn’t just improve your cognitive abilities—it also improves your mood! Neuroscience research has found that people who regularly engage with art experience increased happiness due to elevated dopamine levels (the “feel good hormone”). and report feeling more fulfilled than those who don’t participate in such activities—suggesting regular engagement with art can increase well-being overall! 

So, what would happen if every business school in America required their MBA students to get an Art Certificate?

Depending on your frame of reference, radical ideas are sometimes the most practical. From increased creativity to better problem-solving skills, the impact of adding art to the traditional MBA curriculum could be profound. Beyond the brain health of business leaders, here’s the upside:

Closer Links Between Creativity, Innovation

Studies have shown that people who engage in artistic activities are more likely to develop novel solutions to difficult problems than those who do not. This can result in more innovative solutions that benefit both the company and its customers. 

Emotionally Intelligent Communication

Being grounded in the arts can help MBAs develop better communication and presentation skills. Business schools often require their students to present information or make presentations during class. These skills can be honed through classes practicing and presenting visual ideas or stories through various artistic mediums. This also helps MBAs foster an understanding of different cognitive styles.  

Culturally Responsive Leadership Development  

Research has shown that people who engage in creative activities tend to have higher self-esteem and confidence levels, leading to better decision-making abilities when it comes time for them to lead others. Furthermore, having an arts foundation (which includes art history) gives MBAs a better understanding of how different cultures interact with each other allowing them to be more effective leaders all around.  This understanding of cultural differences is essential for any business leader today. 

Failure to Launch:

About 90% of startups fail. 10% of startups fail within the first year. Why do startups fail? Sure, money matters. Traditional business skills matter.

But, the ability to understand and sense culture is at the core of most failure factors. Add to this America’s crisis of despair related to economic recovery and societal well-being, and we have toxic mix on our hands. Like it or not, this is our society’s operational context, MBAs included.

Will art fix everything? Absolutely not! But, pairing the brain health drivers and skill sets it does deliver with traditional MBA training offers a powerful competitive advantage for those B-schools who know how to integrate and deploy it within their curriculum. 

I understand that “requiring” MBAs from all business schools across America to receive certificates in art before graduating will not happen. I also understand that, for those who do, there are far-reaching implications for our current—and future—business leaders. From increased creativity and problem-solving skills, improved communication abilities, enhanced leadership capabilities, and a better understanding of cultural differences—the impact of getting an arts education cannot be understated when it comes time for an MBA student’s future success after graduation day arrives!  And, on the practical side, these are a university’s future donors. Why would universities not want to provide them with every advantage for succeeding? 

Follow CU Denver’s Imaginator Academy link on LinkedIn and ImaginatorAcademy.com

By Theo Edmonds
Culture Futurist™ | Creativity Strategist | Conceptual Artist | #WorkplaceWellbeing Researcher | Entrepreneur