McCombs students need to pursue creativity, think outside the box

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Photo Credit: Charlie Hyman | Daily Texan Staff

The business world is lightning-fast. The moment one revolutionary company is born, 20 other companies die out.

With such rapid technological changes and the constant evolution of industries, business students must build an adaptable skill set that goes beyond textbook knowledge. As much as college curricula emphasizes technical skills, there is a fundamental intangible skill that often determines the success of a business  — creativity.

In an IBM survey of over 1,500 CEOs around the world, creativity was ranked as the top skill for individual business success. It was higher than skills such as rigor, management discipline and vision. UT business students should supplement their technical core curriculum with creative elective classes that broaden their perspective, strengthen their complex problem solving abilities and build their competitive edge.

The majority of business degree plans require students to take 15 hours of non-business or free electives. Students can use these elective hours as an opportunity to learn about creative topics beyond their regular business courses.

Neil Patel, a Business Honors and Plan II junior, is pursuing a creative writing certificate in addition to his major requirements.

“I try to incorporate a lot of liberal arts with business because it makes me think about problems in different ways,” Patel said. “Creative thinking is something missing from the workforce, and you can try to train it as much as you can, but it’s a skill you really have to practice.”

Patel worked at investment banking firm Goldman Sachs this past summer, where his creative abilities played an integral role in his daily problem solving tasks.

“Writing stories, talking about characters, and doing deep empathetic analyses is super helpful; it helped me look at lawsuits in a creative context at Goldman,” Patel said. “There are so many analyses of the same problem, but being creative lets you think about all of them together.”

In addition to helping business students think creatively about problem solving, creative electives also differentiate students by providing them with a more unique skill set.

Douglas Hannah, assistant professor of management at the McCombs School of Business, teaches a class in innovation and entrepreneurship. Hannah emphasizes the importance of creativity and critical thinking in a business setting. Having a unique creative interest can help a candidate stand out when interviewing for a position alongside 50 other students of the same major and background, Hannah said.

“Business is fundamentally a creative exercise in that you are trying to understand a landscape, a market, a problem, and devise a way to navigate through that uncertain environment,” Hannah said. “You do need technical skills … but if you have a free elective, why take (another) elective in business when you can take something interesting and different?”

There are hundreds of electives outside McCombs that business students can take to enrich their learning experience. All students need to do is go to the course registrar, type in an interesting keyword and enroll in a creative elective that will improve their problem solving skills and diversify their interests. Classes in fine arts, innovative entrepreneurship and design, among other subjects, can all be creative and interesting additions to their business tracks.

Creativity is a fundamental skill for all career paths, and business is no exception.To strengthen their creative application abilities and stay current in a fast-paced world, UT business students must think outside their business box and pursue creative electives that challenge them.

Mathavan is a business honors freshman from McAllen.