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You’re not just any old business major: you’re an innovator. But how do you learn how to disrupt while you’re taking classes that are teaching you all the rules you need to know? Business majors can often get a bad rep for taking cookie-cutter classes that don’t prepare students for the actual business world. That’s why some of the best preparation for business might be far, far away from the business school. Future business leaders need to learn how to improvise and think creatively, but they also need to know how to express themselves eloquently.
One great field you can explore to expand your horizons as an aspiring entrepreneur is creative writing. Here are three reasons why business majors and other tycoons in the making should try their hands at fiction and poetry:
1. Identifying the root of the problem.
I had a professor of poetry who told us that if there was a word or phrase in the poem that didn’t seem to be working quite right, chances were good that the problem wasn’t actually the thing we were pinpointing. Instead, the deeper root of the problem probably was in the words, phrases, or lines surrounding that word.
When you identify an area that seems troublesome, ask yourself: is this really the problem? Or does the problem actually lurk elsewhere, but is getting reflected here? Approaching problems from a new angle will help you challenge your assumptions: see what’s actually going on around you, not what everyone else says is important.
2. Let your characters tell you what the story is.
Managing your cast of characters is a lot like running a business: though you get to control a lot of the context and the environment, you want to make sure that the business is working for everyone and using everyone’s full capacities. When you’re writing a story, you can’t determine what your characters will do—they will tell you what’s important. So listen to them, and let them drive the story.
Similarly, when you’re managing a business, you can’t always unilaterally decide what’s best: you have to learn how to pay attention to what clients are trying to tell you. This may sound obvious, but when you get completely caught up in your idiosyncratic logic, it can be hard to hear what others need. For example, the startup Dating Ring began as a group dating website, but when its customers said that they wanted individual dates, the site had to change its entire model to keep its clientele happy.
3. Learn how to think in different forms, but also learn how forms can help you think outside the box.
I love to write poetry in very strict patterns with rhyme and meter, but that’s because using forms forces me to come up with associations and connections I would have never thought to make. Not every problem has a solution, and not every solution seems like the answer to the problem. For example, in a poem with a very strict rhyme or meter, the most powerful effects can often come from bending or breaking the pattern unexpectedly. In John Keats’s poem “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” there’s a sudden short line - “And no birds sing” - after a string of longer, metrically regular lines. This pattern-breaker is heartbreaking and forces you to pay attention.
Business is certainly about crunching the numbers and drawing rational, logical conclusions - but it’s also about imagination. And creative writing allows you to challenge your standard modes of thought and approach problems you didn’t even know you had with completely novel solutions.
Looking for more help with your applications to business school? Check out these other blog posts written by our business school admissions consultants in Boston and New York: Does success on the GMAT predict success in MBA classes, MBA programs: You Got In! Now What?, and An MBA is Only as Good as Your Plans For It. If you'd like more hands-on support, feel free to reach out to Cambridge Coaching! Our business school admissions coaches will be happy to help.