Business School Students from 20 Universities Make the Case for Creativity and Digital Literacy

Image of university students holding a shirt representing their university.

by Francesca Lohman

posted on 02-13-2020

Next week in an auditorium on the University of Southern California campus, teams of students from 20 top-ranked U.S. and international business schools will gather to take on a tough challenge in a highly regarded, annual case study competition.

First, they’ll learn about a business case detailing a real-world problem. Then they’ll spring into action, spending the next 24 hours researching and analyzing case details, creating a solution and a set of recommendations, and designing compelling visual media to present their ideas to panels of industry professionals and academics. Adrenalin and energy levels will be high, and we know these students will bring innovative perspectives and come up with creative solutions.

This case competition at USC’s Marshall School of Business aims to have students flex their collaborative and creative problem-solving muscles as they put their classroom knowledge into practice. “By simulating what business people do in the real world, the competition forces students to think strategically and creatively, and bring together all the aspects of their curriculum,” says Sean O’Connell, Director of International Business Programs at USC. “They’ll see how disciplines are integrated—from finance to marketing to management and more—so they can be prepared to practice these skills when they enter the workforce.”

Adobe is thrilled to sponsor the competition this year, as it aligns with everything we believe is important as well as what third-party research shows: that in addition to industry-specific skills, students need soft skills like creativity and creative problem-solving to land the best jobs when they graduate.

We’re excited that the student competitors will be using Adobe Creative Cloud and Adobe Spark to design their presentations, because we know that digital literacy is critical for success in the modern workforce. Studies have shown that the jobs of the future will require creativity, innovation, collaboration, and the ability to communicate with impact, and Adobe Creative Cloud delivers the digital tools to build and showcase these skills.

The value of creative skills and digital literacy in the business world

USC’s O’Connell says that creativity is “a necessity” in business, where people need to work collaboratively to think through complex challenges from all angles and then come up with innovative ways to address them.

It’s not surprising, then, that digital literacy—the ability to learn, create, communicate ideas, and tell stories through multiple digital means—has become a key focus of leading business schools like the Marshall School, the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah, and others.

“Creativity is about formulating ideas and doing so in a novel fashion,” says O’Connell. “Tools like Adobe’s allow students not just to express their ideas, but also to explore new ways of thinking and then put together solutions.”

O’Connell acknowledges the increasing importance of storytelling in business, and the role that Spark and other Adobe Creative Cloud tools can play in helping people engage and persuade audiences. “It’s not always about having the best idea but about telling best story,” he says. “Why do people gravitate toward one product or solution versus others? Convincing people of your opinions is easier when you can use Adobe tools to create that visual impact.”

Developing the soft skills employers demand

With organizations and publications such as the World Economic Forum, The Economist, and Bloomberg touting the importance of creativity and other soft skills in the current and future workforce, we at Adobe recently set out to do some research of our own.

In the fall of 2019, after analyzing 2 million job postings and 2 million resumes across 18 diverse career fields, Adobe discovered a significant skills gap. Job candidates’ resumes didn’t demonstrate five vital skills sought by employers: communication, creativity, collaboration, creative problem-solving, and critical thinking. (You can review the study findings here.)

The findings raise important questions around whether these skills are being emphasized enough in higher education. At Adobe, we strongly believe that project-based learning approaches offer powerful ways for students to build soft skills and digital literacy. And those approaches can include everything from assigning students to create infographics, video essays, and documentary podcasts as part of their coursework to encouraging them to participate in international business case competitions.

Driving digital literacy to give students an edge

Ultimately, the USC Marshall School case competition and others like it are a way for business schools to prepare future entrepreneurs and innovators to compete at the highest levels of the workforce. And by providing students access to Adobe Creative Cloud tools for designing their presentations, USC is giving them new ways to apply what they’ve learned, influence people, and move their ideas forward.

We wish the best of luck to all the business case competitors, and we look forward to sharing their perspectives and final projects on the new Adobe Blog soon.

Topics: News, digital literacy, education,

Products: Creative Cloud, Spark