Most businesses and certainly governments and statisticians use words such as productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness to describe the popular notion of “value” in organisations and industry.
These words relate historically to tools of production and instruments of measurement that in the main were ways of evaluating and measuring value that were introduced in the Industrial Age. They were vital drivers for progress in the Industrial Age (mid 19th century to the 20th century) in that they provided ways of understanding and controlling our physical world, which have led to great advances in our standard of living.
The last two decades have been marked by the emergence of industries driven by knowledge and people rather than more easily controlled machines and production lines. There is now a vital need for a set of values carried by a different language: one that can describe business as moved by its prime asset, its people.
Lotte Darso, Research Director, the Creative Alliance, the Learning Lab, Denmark, in her ground-breaking book, Artful Creation - Tales of Art in Business argues that the importance of this shift in terminology is immense. But she suggests organisations are too busy with “business as usual” to really take this matter seriously. "When knowledge and competencies becomes the main asset, the real value of organisations is no longer material products controlled by business but knowledge in peoples’ heads and bodies".
She proposes that "product innovation is still important, but as Peter Drucker stresses in his concept The Knowledge Society, at least 50 per cent of innovation is social and concerns new ways of collaboration, new constellations (involving new types of people, for example, artists) and new processes of learning and knowledge creation".
Knowledge cannot be controlled. We cannot control the how and when of the production of knowledge - who knows where it is going to come from, from whom, how, and when? These are the unknowns. What we can do is set up the environment for knowledge to be encouraged, discussed, recognised, and then valued.
Thus the profound challenge for business and education contemporaneously is the reshaping of the popular language to allow us to define the processes that can bring to the surface knowledge production and reveal its value.
This dialogue will facilitate new business paradigms and the design of new educational programs for the new skills bases required for the growth and sustainability of knowledge-based industries. The right place to launch exploration of this new language will lie in the field of aesthetics - maybe in the classic arts and humanities faculties, but certainly not within the traditional business, marketing, and science schools or disciplines.
Steven Taylor and Hans Hansen in their paper "Finding Form: Looking at the Field of Organizational Aesthetics" in the Journal of Management Studies (September 2005) suggest "aesthetics is concerned with knowledge that is created from our sensory experience. It also includes how our thoughts and feelings and reasoning around them inform our cognition."
If we look carefully at the distinction of aesthetic/sensory knowing versus intellectual/propositional knowing, which has been a prime driver through the Industrial Age, we find a distinction that is not just about how we know things, but why we know them.
Intellectual knowing is driven by a desire for clarity, objective truth, and ultimately instrumental goals. On the other hand, aesthetic knowing is driven by a desire for subjective, personal truth, typically for its own sake.
May Katherine Bateson, former Professor, the Harvard Graduate School of Education and former Dean of Social Studies and Humanities at the University of Northern Iran, smiles when she says, "The only thing I know is that when we are confronted by change in every day life, business or personal, we improvise … and in every civilisation ancient or modern, creativity is what drives improvisation."
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