Cultural literacy entails a wide understanding of different contexts and cultures. The big question, according to Lars, is how one becomes culturally literate? This is in every way the challenge, and the opportunity, he explains.
Although art and humanities are not traditionally associated with business education, the combination makes a whole lot of sense, Lars suggests. Injecting art is not only a great educational tool, says Lars, but also a way to enhance the understanding of aesthetical communication and knowledge. Lars exemplifies with the case of the photograph of Alan Kurdi, the drowned three-year-old boy that came to symbolise the acute problems with the global migration in September 2015.
”When it happened and you saw the photo, that’s aesthetical communication. I don’t mean aesthetically beautiful but rather a form of communication that goes directly to our senses and perceptions. The scientific and logical knowledge we are working with, I could summarise in a PowerPoint presentation. It’s when you get exposed to aesthetic communication that your feelings and urge to act are triggered. That’s the idea: If you work with art you can make things happen through the senses.”
This is the way that Stockholm School of Economics can turn into a place where you can discuss the big and important questions. Lars argues. “You really have to know a little about these kinds of questions when you come out as a decision-maker in society”.
The classic academic model is based on a large degree of freedom for professors to conduct their teaching and research in a way they see fit. As a consequence, universities are often very flat organizations, with very little top-down management. Lars suggests that, even though this model has been working rather well since the 14th century, it nevertheless introduces a few problems when it comes to leading the kind of change he have sought to initiate at the school.
The autonomy of the professors and they pride they take in their freedom, makes it difficult to push new ideas for how to change the business education towards a more multidisciplinary kind at the school.
Lars uses a metaphor of a pot to explain the approach the school has used. This “pot” needs to be filled up with the different parts of the business education. At the bottom of the pot you have the stones, which represent the core courses and subjects, such as economics, finance, and marketing. These foundation stones are autonomously managed by the academics themselves, without Lars’ interruption. Then, to fill up the remaining space or ”slack” in the pot, you pour in sand.
The so-called sand is primarily made up by a new track called Global Challenges on the Bachelor program, and by an increased focus on art and the humanities. The latter is one of the key instruments to promote a wider contextual and cultural understanding beyond the strictly academic sphere, Lars suggests.
The art is the sand that binds together and fills out the loose spaces between the stones in the pot.
Education will be redesigned around bigger global issues to raise today's shining stars .