People often criticise the corporate world for being rigid and stale, for its hierarchical, linear structure, perhaps forgetting that companies are among the major exponents of innovation. It is nevertheless true that, when it comes to developing creativity, art still has a lot to teach companies.
What is the essence of a company if not the communal organisation of creativity? Just like an artist, a firm looks to invent new models and open up new angles, new horizons. A successful company must be able to embrace the upheavals taking place in society and convey a picture of a better future for its customers. So the company will design new products, invent new uses, it will make you dream, maybe even scare you. It destroys and creates in a continuous, abstract process. So, yes, we can say that the essence of a company is basically to create. However, as Pablo Picasso famously said: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
Transposing Picasso’s observation into the corporate world, the traditional organisation of work – hierarchical and frequently alienating – tends to hold back the artist’s soul from flying free and restrains it in the straitjacket of the past. The challenge of tomorrow’s company is therefore to turn daily work into an art-form where everyone is free to exercise his/her creativity. Today we hear a lot about ‘performance’ and ‘optimisation’. But what do these notions mean in the era of digital products & services and robotics? We already know that, given the enormous progress in artificial intelligence, work will in future be radically different from today. Without necessarily replacing human beings, robots will be geared up to carry out the most repetitive, mechanical tasks, leaving the creative and iterative side to the company employee of tomorrow.
In addition, it may well be that art and business enterprise have a lot to offer each other. While it is most unlikely that tomorrow’s firms could be set up like a real artist’s studio – this atmosphere would soon be stifled by business rationales and exigencies that run counter to this kind of approach – we can nevertheless see the sense in conceiving a company as a work of art, in the actual as well as the figurative sense: a work of art in terms of its organisation – in the way it brings staff together through team building exercises and workshops on such topics as Design Thinking so as to stimulate in-house creativity; and also a work of art in terms of its communication, creating a genuinely artistic, aesthetic and visual universe around its brand image.
For this to happen, business firms will need to cultivate and develop meaningful dialogue with artists. The creative process is first and foremost about imagination, dreaming of future realities, aesthetics, even utopias. If a firm is to perform then of course corporate realities cannot be ignored but as far as possible the company should get involved in new encounters and new discussions that can open up the field of possibilities. This means engaging in external collaboration but also most importantly creating an internal ecosystem that fosters the emergence of innovative ideas stemming from interchanges between different, diverse types of creativity.
If you can turn your company into a communal painting, to which everyone is able to add his/her touch of colour, angle, perspective, forms, depictions and vision, your organisation will surely provide fertile ground for innovation.
As Albert Einstein said: “Creativity is contagious, pass it on‟.