Recapturing the arts is vital in a STEM-focused world
Monday, November 27, 2017 at 05:45PM

Originally published as Guest Commentary in the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal (November 27, 2017)

We are inundated with data.  So the first business question we typically ask is a hard science question:  What am I looking at here?  And to answer that question requires a STEM thinker (a data science approach).  But the deeper question about what it means attempts to make sense of the data, and that takes more of a STEAM thinker (where the A stands for Art) to answer. 

STEM education refers to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  STEAM simply makes room for Art in that educational mix.  Thought leaders such as Daniel Pink have boldly stated that “the MFA is the new MBA”, furthering the movement to recapture the value of the Arts in a STEM-focused world. 

Pink’s pivotal book (A Whole New Mind) suggested that forces in the world economy will shift society from left-brain thinking (linear, logical, analytical) to right-brain thinking (intuitive, creative, holistic) as the dominant thought pattern. In retrospect, that is precisely where we’ve landed today.  Think about the relevance of storytelling, our desire for product design, a resurgent demand for all things handcrafted, or how individuals are searching for greater meaning in their lives.

No longer are the arts being undervalued; quite the opposite.  And this merging of art thinking with STEM thinking is driving some unique business (integrated thinking) propositions.

Case in point – the marriage of business imperatives with Applied Improvisation* techniques.  The art of improvisation capitalizes on the creative process to help reframe how businesses interpret – and therefore leverage – their capabilities. 

The benefits of Applied Improvisation are far ranging, with the following merely a small sampling of how businesses are merging art with science. 

Using Applied Improvisation techniques helps businesses to: 

Art, science and business all seamlessly blended for the betterment of individuals, teams and organizations.  And to that I say, “full STEAM ahead”! 

* Explaining Applied Improvisation to the business world: There are principles and techniques (mindsets) that are used in improvisational theater that make it successful and very compelling to watch. Those same principles and techniques (mindsets) can be applied in non-theater settings to better understand human behavior, team dynamics, core leadership competencies, and business acumen.

Article originally appeared on masononleadership (
See website for complete article licensing information.