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Creative disruption and the new wave of business-ready humanities graduates

Source: University of Exeter

In the fallout from the global pandemic, many of us find ourselves attracted to the idea of getting back to “normal”. But creativity, which is famously hard to quantify, doesn’t exactly do ”normal” — and nor should it, writes Anna Kiernan, co-director of the MA Creativity: Innovation and Business Strategy at the University of Exeter.

It may be surprising to learn that “creativity” still tops the bill of skills that employers are looking for in graduates. So why does this aptitude appeal to twenty-first century businesses? Well, there are two main reasons.

Firstly, because being able to think creatively enhances our ability to solve problems. Being able to reflexively assess and solve problems in a collaborative way is a business-critical competency in these times of flux. Secondly, creative disruption and innovation are essential for growth. As The Economist recently explained, ”The pandemic is liberating firms to experiment with radical new ideas.”

Being able to reflexively assess and solve problems in a collaborative way is a business-critical competency in these times of flux.

The University of Exeter’s pioneering creative programmes bridge the gap between innovation and management to inspire a generation of creative industry entrepreneurs and professionals. Bringing together world-leading researchers, entrepreneurs and business leaders from both the College of Humanities and the Business School, students are offered a richly stimulating and diverse learning experience in a nurturing collaborative environment.

The Harvard Business Review recently suggested that when managers “Cause people to suppress parts of their identity, they limit a potentially valuable source of creativity”.  On the MA Creativity, students are challenged to express themselves authentically and take risks as part of a process that promotes collaboration with colleagues on the course and with the organisations they go on to work for.

Students on the MA navigate the creative process by deep diving into live and digital immersive experiences, experimenting with ideas, engaging with failure and persisting persuasively.

Students on the MA navigate the creative process by deep diving into live and digital immersive experiences, experimenting with ideas, engaging with failure and persisting persuasively. Here’s what international students on the MA have to say about their experience:

“What I have found so beneficial about this course is the diverse approach to assignments and classes. It seems I am continually being pushed outside my comfort zone and encouraged to take part in new activities that stimulate my brain in ways unheard of before.’

“Creativity is a messy and romantic thing. The uncertainty it brings makes me more willing to take risks for the future.”

“Every idea and thought is valued. For example, we were asked to write a lot of critical thinking reports in the course … Lecturers and professors listen to and accept every challenge from students, which sometimes looks like a debate, but the truth is that there is no correct answer.”

“While writing this reflection, I realised that I am good at making connections between ideas. I guess that is the reason why I am creative — or maybe it is creativity which has helped me excel in connecting the dots.’”

“‘Fashion Revolution at the University of Exeter has brought me closer to the fashion industry of my dreams, and I have benefited a lot from this experience. I will use it as an essential foundation for entering the career of the fashion industry in the future to continuously improve myself.”

“The placement allowed me to harness my key strengths – namely research and synthesising and breaking down information into logical sequences for discussion.”

Creativity has many meanings.  It is the urge to do something, to make something, to turn the ordinary into something extraordinary and to catalyse social change. Through studying an industry-facing MA in Creativity: Innovation and Business Strategy, International Film Business, Theatre Practice or International Contemporary Art, students at the University of Exeter learn how to navigate the creative process, communicate effectively and work collaboratively to make their ideas a reality.

To find out more about the MA Creativity: Innovation and Business Strategy, please contact the co-directors Dr Michael Pearce (M.Pearce@exeter.ac.uk) or Anna Kiernan (A.L.P.Kiernan@exeter.ac.uk) or follow @exetercreativity on Instagram