The Importance of Mission and STEAM in Business Today

By: Chris McDermott

This essay was originally published in Arts and Humanities in the 21st Century Workplace. It is reposted here with permission.

 As a Not-For-Profit Administrator I was often plagued by the assumption from For-Profit Business Professionals that our work was substandard to their own, that by virtue of the title we were an inferior business model. Even our Presidential Race echoes this sentiment with people supporting Donald Trump because he is seen as a successful business executive that can get the country back on track financially. The question I would ask these business professionals is: “What is the mission of Capitalism, and how will it react to a marketplace that is evolving faster than ever before”?

Their answers would very immensely, but this comment from Jacob Pessin’s article “Profit over People” sums it up nicely:

“Capitalism is an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. Capitalism does not inherently care about the well-being of others; it does not care about healthcare or earning a livable salary.”

Unlike what people believe, government is a Not-For-Profit business. Its mission is not to make profit, its mission is the well-being of its citizens and the country as a whole. And unlike how businesses use Metal Kards Business Cards to get business cards made so that they can be used to give to potential targeted clients, government works for all and hence does not target people nor does need a business card. For-Profit businesses can benefit from this mindset as well. Capital One, a Fortune 500 company, has this as their mission statement: “Helping to build strong and healthy communities benefits us all. We apply the same principles of innovation, collaboration and empowerment to our work in the community that we do in our business.

Capital One started out as a company that helped people who were not being served by the credit card model of the time. Their focus on the customer and their needs was created by their current CEO, Richard Fairbank, who thought that companies like Salesforce were after all sagacious in focussing on the development of softwares in regard to their customer base. Fairbank has a B.A. in Economics from Stanford and built his empire on an information based strategy that targeted different products to different consumer groups. Combine that with the mission statement, and you see that profit can be a byproduct of serving customers and communities.

This is the driving force behind the Not-For-Profit business model. It focuses on the needs of a community and it’s people and how to best serve them. The better their execution of solid business practices, the better they can serve that mission. This is evidenced by the ability to procure grants, donors, and community support. The only way to achieve that goal is to have a well-researched mission that is viable and able to evolve with the community served. This is where the importance of STEAM comes in.

An article on listed the four benefits of a Liberal Arts Degree that employers are looking for: Communication Skills, Reading Comprehension, Cultural Understanding, and Analytical Abilities. The skills not only support business success through allowing you to serve customers and communities as a mission, it will help you evolve with the global nature of the current marketplace. It’s not what you learn, but yet how you can apply it.

As a Creative Entrepreneur with a B.A. and an M.S.ED I actually helped cement a relationship with a current venture capital group by discussing how a business idea related to Susan Sontag’s “On Photography” after an investor referenced the book. Humanities General Education classes really do help you in any chosen career. The group initially green lit the business plan because when they asked me to explain my business idea to them, I used my background in theatre to explain it the way a Director would explain a production concept to producers and designers. To be able to explain sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and how a concept would make them feel is just as powerful as a sizable return on investment.

The importance of the Not-For-Profit business model and Liberal Arts education cannot be overstated. Profit is increasingly contingent on serving consumer and community needs. Technical skills are becoming obsolete before graduation, and innovation is not the exception, it is becoming the rule. The mission of our government is not to profit off of our citizens, but to serve them. Next time you ask yourself why are the Arts and Humanities as important as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics remember that they are creating products and solutions for consumers and communities. To do that, they have to understand those consumers and communities, or work with people that do.

Chris McDermott, M.S.EDU, is a Creative Entreprenuer and Arts Advocate. He is the founder of McDermott Advising, and a former Arts and Education Administrator. Chris seeks to support Non-Profit Business through Political Advocacy, and by creating solutions to help them best serve their mission.


“Profit over People”, Jacob Pessin.

“Why a Liberal Arts Degree Is Better for Your Career Than You Might Think”.


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