Monday, August 16, 2010

The "Creative" Workforce...How music students are prepared. Are you?

By Mark T. Burke

To be a creative person means I sleep until noon, often skip bathing for days on end, ride a banana seat bike everywhere I go and convey my ideas through hand motions, right?  I believe that's what many company leaders think of when they hear someone described as "creative."  By the way, I would love to have my old banana seat bike from my childhood back. Sadly, that won't happen.

Over the last few months, I don't think a day has gone by without hearing someone say America needs "creative" people in the workforce.  Last night I listened to Andrew Moore, Google Pittsburgh PA, talk about how more and more creative people are starting to come on board within organizations to help them map the future, but that organizations need more creative folks.  So I started thinking about what it means to be a creative person, in relation to the workforce and how the study of music helps prepare us all for entry into the workforce.

I've drafted this document to chart key characteristics of creative people, how those characteristics are made evident (or developed) through the study of music and how those characteristics relate to the needs of the workforce. I say draft because I believe this is a work in progress and would love to have input.  I also believe this document can serve music program advocacy and organizations alike.  As we think about how to advocate for music inclusion, I believe making a direct connection between musical skills and non-musical performance expectations in the workforce is an under developed area. For organizations, as they think about the type of workers they need, this type of document can help hiring managers and leaders guide their selection. 

This draft includes my high level view that creativity can be examined in 3 key areas, Expression, Ideas and Synergy.  Check out the chart to see how I've broken each down into sub-skills/areas, how each is witnessed in music students and what organizations need for employees in each area.  I welcome your feedback.

Click here to access PDF ---->>>> Music Student Preparedness for applying Creativity in the Workforce.


  1. Mark,
    I think you've done a great job of 'drawing the lines' (connecting the dots as it were) between the creative components of the workplace and something too often overlooked as preparatory for the kind of thinking the world of work is holding out as desirable for success.
    My observations concerning the emerging interest in filling jobs with the kind of creative people we need are:
    1. I think employers need to accept the fact that it's a two-way street. If you want to optimize the talents of creative people you have to be creative in the tasks and opportunities you give them. Creative leadership is not a phrase I hear being used very often.
    2. Creativity is imagination in action. Imaginative proposals can only become creative solutions in an environment where they're not just tolerated, but where they're nurtured. Currently, the stock of such environments is pretty slim for anything other than "money saving" solutions. To truly hit one's stride musically is to take risks - simply playing the notes flawlessly is not viewed as a creative act - and cultivating a work force capable of being consistently creative will require comfort and expectation that risk breeds reward.

    Just a thought.

  2. Hey Jerry...great to have you join the conversations. Great points from an innovative educator...Thanks Jerry.