Looking for a jol? Enrol at a business school

Comedian John Vlismas engaged by business school? Why not, it seems. (Photograph: SA Entertainment Online.)

I HAVE decided to attend business school. And why not? Whereas I once imagined that such institutions were absolutely too serious for my liking, I now discover that they are actually just a jol. In fact, I suspect there is more fun to be had there than I have had on a Saturday night for many moons. After all, where else can you attend a course that is taught by, among others, one of South Africa’s leading comedians, John Vlismas and Mark Mitchell, who is the maker of magical music at Cape Town school for toffs, Bishops? And what other establishment invites you to an on-campus exhibition by leading “land artist”, Strijdom van der Merwe, all in the name of learning?

For sure, business schools are not what they used to be. Students are no longer limited to yawn-inducing subject choice like economics, business enterprise, management science and statistics. Not at all. In the quest to get students to…wait for it…“think outside the business box”, schools are increasingly offering innovation and creativity courses, which they claim are “innovative and creative” and help people enhance their own personal creativity, as well as their management of others.

Earlier this year, the UCT Graduate School of Business launched its Creategy course, which is designed to challenge leaders to…here we go again…“think outside the box, and unlock unprecedented levels of creativity and innovation”.

The aim of the programme, which “harnesses the talents” of funny man Vlismas, music man Mitchell and others is, says course director and senior lecturer, Jon Foster-Pedley, “to explore, share, excite and venture into the unknown in order to help business people arrive at the richest possible solution”. Ultimately, he says, it “provides the tools to develop sustainable innovation” – presumably by teaching you to tell hilarious jokes and make good music?

Not to be outdone, Johannesburg’s Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) more recently announced the introduction of its version of “innovation in business education” in the form of the GIBS Arts Experience.

This programme features what the institute calls “compelling new forms of art, presented in surprising places in unpredictable ways…designed to provoke new ways of thinking”. The idea behind the initiative is “to encourage business leaders to trust in their intuition and to apply creativity to the issues they face on a daily basis”.

Director of GIBS, Professor Nick Binedell rationalises further, “During periods of transformation and uncertainty, successful nations find creative solutions through personal and social innovation. Art stimulates this creativity, breaking down rigid thought patterns and offering new alternatives to business problems.”

One of the artists featured at the GIBS Arts Experience, Van der Merwe, puts his spin on it: “The creative mindset in the business world is linked to the creative mindset of the artist and the art world. These two different disciplines are increasingly being seen as major role players in contributing to a better society and a more appreciative understanding of the human spirit.”

Yes sir, I am almost convinced by the aforementioned comedy, music and art shows to enrol for business school. What better way to get my jollies and to learn to appreciate the human spirit? But wait a minute, in writing this piece, I discover that business schools abroad offer innovation and creativity courses that involve even more exciting activities like drawing cartoons, cooking, graphic design and farming.

In light of this new information, I think I will wait until a local business school thinks even further out of the box…and launches an even more innovative and creative innovation and creativity course.

(Originally published as my If The Hat Fits column in the November 2008 edition of Business Day’s Management Review.)

About Administrator

Author and freelance writer based in Hout Bay near Cape Town in South Africa.
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