What do artists and entrepreneurs have in common?

Artist: a skilled performer

Entrepreneur: a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money

Somehow I started to think how these two professions – or roles, identities – were connected, and I asked my friend, a designer, how she would define what an artist does and who is an artist. I listened to her talk about creative visions, will to create something, and internal motivation for challenging existing societal norms, when it hit me: she was also describing an entrepreneur! Well, at least the kind of entrepreneur who wants to change the world or solve problems they encounter in the surrounding society, mind you. Furthermore, we cannot say that all artists are driven by the same forces; just like entrepreneurs are motivated because of various reasons (see e.g. Segal et al. 2005).

So what? Why should we care about this notion that artists and entrepreneurs might have something in common? Because it shows how our societies are changing, and why that should also be reflected in education. Consider the following introduction to teamLab’s exhibition at Miraikan in Tokyo, Japan (November 2014 – May 2015):

Through collaborative creation, we learn the experience of “co-creation”

30 years ago, when I had just become a schoolboy, could anyone in the world have imagined the jobs that we do today?

With the arrival of the information society, everything is connected by networks and society is changing ever more rapidly. I can’t imagine what kinds of jobs the children of today will be doing 30 years from now.

Creativity is far more important than memorizing historical dates or being good at doing calculations.

Meanwhile current education is no more than extensive memorization and practicing questions with one correct answer, where all other answers are wrong. Conversely, freedom of expression, doing things differently to others, anything that doesn’t lead to a right answer, these are all seen as wrong and are corrected. In society, there is no such thing as a problem with a single right answer. An answer that had never existed until now may be the right answer. A bookstore that delivers from one click is a right answer, and a comfortable bookstore with a lovely cafe atmosphere is also a right answer. And many of the bookstores that were the correct answer 30 years ago are now, possibly, the wrong answer.

And in the current education system, from a young age and without exception, the focus is on homogeneous development of ability so that each individual has no weak points. Homework is done individually, tests are taken individually, and entrance examinations are individually evaluated. In other words, working solo is completely drilled into students. Furthermore, many kids today are obsessed with their smartphones. Their brains might be connected with others through the smartphone, but physically they are engaged in completely individual activity. Humans learn about the world through every kind of experience, and even when moving our bodies, we are thinking.

But in society, it is increasingly required to be able to achieve creative results as part of a team. Collaborative and creative experience, in other words “co-creative” experience, that is what we believe children may need now more than anything else. Using the latest digital technology, we want children to enjoy moving their bodies about freely in a shared space, interacting with each other, collaboratively creating in a “co-creative” experience. And we want them to become the kind of people who can enjoy creative collaboration, and from this wish was born, “Learn and Play! teamLab Future Park”

The exhibition itself was a lot of fun, but the message above was perhaps the most important takeaway for us as adults, parents, educators. We should not educate people to specific jobs, but instead provide students with opportunities to craft their own creative vision. So in this sense being an artist or an entrepreneur is actually pretty similar: from an educational perspective we should provide them both with opportunities and spaces to explore and to discover their passion. Conversely, from an organizational perspective, this also holds true as organizations are more and more looking for talented and passionate individuals instead of someone to fill a specific position.

So my question to you, as a parent or an educator, is how do you ensure your child/student has enough opportunities to discover and refine her creative vision? And how do you encourage her to explore new ways to define herself and what she does?

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