Andy Warhol knew it all along: “Good business is the best art.” And lately, a number of business thinkers and leaders have begun to embrace the arts, not as an escapist notion, a parallel world after office hours, or a creative asset, but as an integral part of business — from the management team to operations to customer service.
John Maeda, the president of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and author of the book Redesigning Leadership, predicts that artists will emerge as the new business leaders and cites RISD graduates Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky, co-founders of Airbnb, as prominent examples. The author William Deresiewicz heralds reading as the most important task of any leader. John Coleman makes a compelling case for the role of poetry in business. Intel (INTC) named pop musician will.i.am as director of creative innovation. The World Economic Forum has been inviting arts and cultural leaders to its events for several years and this year added the ‘Role of the Arts’ to its Network of Global Agenda Councils.
Indeed, the “art” of business has become more important as the “science” grows ubiquitous. As Big Data and sophisticated analytical tools allow us to make our processes more efficient, intuition and creativity are fast becoming the only differentiating factors among competitors. Like any “soft asset,” these qualities cannot be exploited, only explored. And like artists, innovators must cultivate creative habits to see the world afresh and create something new.
How do artists think and behave? Here are 12 traits that any individual who aspires to make his or her mark on the world should emulate:
1. Artists are “neophiles.” They are in love with novelty and have an insatiable appetite for finding and creating new connections, for inventing and reinventing, even themselves. Art means changing the meaning of things or creating new meanings. That’s exactly what innovation is all about.
2. Artists are humanists. They are experts of the “human condition” and observe human desires, needs, emotions, and behavior with a sharp, discerning eye and a high degree of empathy. They can feel with and for others, which should be every innovator’s distinct strength as well.
3. Artists are craftspeople. They “think by making” and unite the “hand and the head,” as sociologist Richard Sennett describes it. It has both a physical dimension (exhibiting mastery in craftsmanship) and a meta-physical dimension (connecting a new product, service, or business model with the broader zeitgeist and cultural climate). Nike’s (NKE) Fuelband, for example, integrates software and hardware, and is an expression of our society’s growing demand for self-managed, preventive healthcare.
4. Artists are like children. “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up,” Pablo Picasso famously said. Artists retain a child’s unique sense of possibility and wonder. Innovators should, too. It may sound paradoxical, but innovations are always nostalgic.The most meaningful of them, although seemingly all about novelty and the future, reconnect us with a basic human quest or even our childhood dreams (think of the iPhone and our desire to touch, or sharing sites such as Facebook (FB) or Pinterest, which cater to our innate urge to share).
5. Artists rely on their intuition. It may seem counter-intuitive, but intuition is ever more important in the age of Big Data, because it is the only feature that is faster and deeper than the massive flow of real-time information. Nothing comes close to intuition as innovators seek to anticipate trends and make decisions swiftly.
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