Business schools all over the world are recognizing that their students need to learn to think creatively and critically just as much as they need to learn traditional business skills like finance and accounting.
Wharton is no exception.
The field of business demands that students develop such creative skills, according to Jeff Klein, director of the Wharton Graduate Leadership Program.
“As business leaders, our students will constantly find themselves in situations [involving] ambiguity and incomplete information — situations in which there are no right answers,” he said.
In order to succeed in these situations, Klein said students must have the ability to approach a problem creatively and with different frameworks.
Classifying these kinds of problems that don’t have a right answer as “adaptive problems,” Klein highlighted the importance of developing an adaptive problem-solving capacity in Wharton students.
“They need to be able to understand problems not just through a business perspective, but from governmental, non-profit and consumer perspectives as well,” he said.
Wharton Dean of Academic Affairs and Advising Scott Romeika said Wharton’s curriculum offers students the chance to develop these skills through courses such as Management 100, which is a Wharton requirement that focuses on solving problems in real time.
Project-based team courses like the Wharton Field Challenge — which allows students to work with real non-profit companies — represent another set of opportunities for Wharton students to develop these “softer” skills, according to Romeika.
“Soft skills are not soft at all — they’re critical in understanding people and understanding cultures you might end up working in,” he said.
Marketing professor Jerry Wind also teaches a creative course, Marketing 892.
Wind said he started teaching the class four years ago when he realized that despite the importance of creativity to budding businesspeople, Wharton focuses more on analysis and evaluation than on how to generate creative options.
“The course addresses questions like how to identify, recruit and develop creative people,” he said. “It focuses on improving the students’ competence in managing creative organizations and creative people.”
But this emphasis on developing creativity and critical thinking skills comes not only from the Wharton curriculum, but also from the liberal arts courses Wharton students are required to take, Romeika continued — such as the foreign language requirement and a writing seminar.
“Our students are between 18 and 21 years old,” he said. “They’re still exploring, and we don’t want to stifle that with just business courses.”
That’s when Penn’s “one university” concept comes in.
“It would be very hard for Wharton to stand by itself and not be part of a university like we have here — it would lose a lot of its effectiveness,” he said.
But learning these skills doesn’t just come from the classroom, Romeika said.
“Part of what makes Wharton students successful is what they learn in classrooms, but there are lots of other opportunities to learn and grow,” he said.
Wharton junior and Wharton Women President Lauren Fleischer agreed.
“A lot of the purpose behind extracurricular activities is to allow students to express themselves and to enjoy aspects of Penn they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to enjoy,” she said. “You could concentrate in finance, but still be part of a creative arts group on campus.”Comments powered by Disqus
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