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Engaging creatives in the business of business

wazoku Blog

How do you engage creative people with the language of business? Bath Spa University’s Head of Enterprise & Employability, and long-term partner of Wazoku, Dave Jarman explains in this guest blog post…

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Language is a fascinating thing; even within one tongue certain words are understood in different ways by different communities. I’ve spent the last decade trying to explain words like ‘enterprise’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ to academics and students in such a way as they are palatable to all. Now there are many in the entrepreneurship community who resist diluting the cachet of the term entrepreneur but for me making that word (and that world) accessible is critical to igniting entrepreneurial ambition and unlocking the potential of creative individuals and creative ideas into sustained and impactful ventures.

Business – A Dirty Word

The word ‘business’ is pretty toxic in many quarters, ‘business plan’ likewise. I’m currently in the process of re-branding my university’s enterprise support and Business Plan Competition. Those titles and processes have simply not engaged with the self-identifying arts and humanities creatives we have in abundance at Bath Spa.

We have whole buildings full of designer-makers, musicians, artists, creative producers and writers, performers, and budding freelancers who simply don’t engage with the language of business. Now, this might strike some as naivety or ignorance, and there is a bit of that, but its also about what a degree is and what it isn’t. A degree is not and never should be simply a pathway to the door of an employer; a degree is a 3-year exploration, a chance to develop and flower creatively and intellectually. A degree, especially in the arts, is a chance to develop yourself as a cultural participant in a civilising society. This is not to say that a degree should revert to being an ivory tower with no value to the economy – but we have to find a middle ground that enables and values both economic and cultural value.

Branding a Business Competition for the Arts

Our new brand #BathSparks is hopefully more appealing to our audience and ought to be something they can identify as – “I am a BathSpark”.

We plan to showcase alumni role-models with diverse stories to illustrate the routes and outcomes. We’re lowering the initial bar to entry from a plan to just a short 60-second concept pitch, and we’re using an online idea management tool from Wazoku to socialise the ideas gathering feedback, comments, team members, and endorsement. Ideas that do well get a chance to prove their commitment via access to online crowdfunding tools.
Later in the year, after a programme of voluntary and carefully-titled venture-creation workshops we’ll ask for simple business model explanations and our experts will work with the entrants to hone and develop those ideas further. We’re also reserving some prizes for those who actually build and make and sell things over the year – rather than just write plans. We hope that this new package is accessible, social, engaging, supportive, but also challenging enough to sift out the individuals and teams who we can champion.

Getting Academics to Support Student Enterprise

We’re also working with our academic course leaders to secure their buy-in; many of our final year modules include some sort of creative project and we’re challenging those students to not only create something but to spare a thought for sustaining it too by participation in #bathsparks.

But this isn’t just about unlocking creative start-ups, its about using enterprise as a microcosm to learn about business, and encouraging all our students to get used to pitching, developing, and realising ideas. We need to get all our arts students translating their skills into the workplace – but in ways that neither scare them off or make it seem like the only valuable outcome of their degree. As Richard Adams argued in his recent blog we need creatively and culturally skilled graduates to use, adapt, and design the technology of the future. We don’t just need programmers and engineers, we need people who understand people and people who can imagine – that sounds like humanities and arts graduates are critical to the future of business to me, we just need to persuade them to participate in a bit of business…

This post was originally featured on Create Hub:

Dave Jarman, Head of Enterprise & Employability, Bath Spa University

My expertise is focused on helping young professionals and students make the most out of their talent, ideas, and helping them realise their career ambitions – be that as an innovator in a big organisation or their own entrepreneurial start-up.I also have an extensive background in Higher Education, particularly in Entrepreneurial Education, Career Management and Skills Development. As a certified trainer, life-coach, NLP practitioner and MBTI practitioner my big interest is in helping people achieve their big ambitions.