(List #72) Teaching Business Through Art

How business schools are using the arts to teach sustainability.

(List #72) Teaching Business Through Art

My work in management education is very much influenced by what I see and hear happening in other disciplines, but in particular in art and design. So, when AACSB asked me what I wanted to focus on for my next article, I asked if I could write one about the small but growing movement of business school faculty tapping into the arts to (successfully) teach sustainability to business students. A special thank you to Divya and Fernanda for sharing your experiences with me.

This week’s list is focused on art, creativity and inspiration. For more examples of how business schools are incorporating the arts, see the examples mentioned in the article (linked in List item 1).

How do you, how could you, use the arts to better engage audiences in sustainability topics?


My latest article for AACSB is finally out (I wrote it a few months ago). I wanted to share some of my thoughts on why business schools should tap into the arts to teach business and sustainability topics. I've included a range of examples and approaches from around the world as well as some of my thoughts on how you can get started, whether you feel you are creative or not (we are all creative in some way). Start with what you feel comfortable with and go from there. For more, read the full article here.


Make a simple squiggle on blank piece of paper and give the same image to each student or staff. Give them 3 minutes to finish the squiggle, basically to turn that randomly drawn line into whatever they want, whatever they see. Once everyone is done, put all of the drawings in the middle of the room on the floor or on a wall, and have students come up to look at them. They will see that while everyone in the room started with the same information, they turned it into something completely different. Everyone’s brains approach information in a unique way and everyone sees the world differently. This is similar to lived experiences, stakeholder perceptions, your customers, how consumers engage in sustainability etc.


Choose an everyday object. This can be anything from a ball to a brick. You can do this activity alone or with a small group. With a pen and a piece of paper, set a timer for 3 minutes and draw out as many ideas as possible of how you could use that item. This can be anything, realistic or not, the aim is not to overthink it and to simply draw out all of these uses as quickly as possible. When you are done, invite a few participants to share some of their favourite ideas. This exercise aims to encourage divergent thinking.

Now take that same product. Write down every single assumption that you make about that product at all stages of its lifecycle. Write down assumptions about how it is made and using what, about how it is used, how it is sold, how it is disposed of. This includes both positive and negative assumptions (and note as such). Given these assumptions, how would you rethink this product?


I’m not really a museum person, but I am a “weird and wacky museum” person and there are plenty of those in the world. Next time you are out, pay a visit. My favourite is the Mona in Hobart, Australia. “Anything we say to describe Mona will date quickly, given we are constantly changing our mind about what Mona is”. I dare you not to start up a discussion or approach your work differently after walking through this space. All artwork can be used as a starting point for sustainability discussions. It isn’t just the works that are of interest in a museum but the spaces and how those spaces are used to engage audiences. Encourage students to pick an artwork and explore its connection with the SDGs, not just in terms of subject matter but also materials and location. When I was a student at Central Saint Martins (briefly), one of my teachers used to bring us to the Royal College of Surgeons of England’s Hunterian Museum to be inspired by its collection of rare, historical anatomical specimens displayed in clear jars. It was an exercise in seeing the world through a different (slightly gruesome in many instances) lens.


I’m mixing up creativity, art and design here a little, but they all overlap. IDEO Design Thinking Resources (including work on human centred design) is worth a look. If you are based in the US, I recommend attending the Creative Problem Solving Institute annual conference. It will change the way you work (there are no sessions on anything business or business education relating, and you will likely not see anyone from business education there).  Attend a Creative Monday’s event in your city to hear creatives talk about their process and inspiration. Network there to find artists that you can collaborate.

Watch this video (26min) of Tima Bansal from NBS interviewing Christoph Thun Hohenstein, General Director of Museum of Applied Arts, this Webinar on the Role of Art in Designing Management Education (1h20min) and the session on Art as a Vehicle for Social Change from GBSN (47min).


Broken Promises: Two years of corporate reporting under Australia’s Modern Slavery Act (Just out! Launch event scheduled for December 1st)

A lot (too many?) reports and documents being launched at COP27

Why its problematic to pay farmers using mobile money

Divya Singhal was recently featured in this article on how music in management can make or break a product or a service

The winners of many different sustainability awards ( I was lucky enough to be invited to be a judge for many of these) including AASHE’s 2022 Sustainability Awards, the Australasia Green Gown Awards and GBSN’s Impact Awards.

This two week courses on Climate Change taking place in parallel to COP organised by the University of Edinburgh, British Council and others.