Arts at the heart of today’s business - The Nigerian Telegraph
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Arts at the heart of today’s business

Author(s): Sylva Ifedigbo

October 9, 2013

In March this year, The Economist reported that investors were increasingly fawning over Google’s stock, with the internet giant’s share price on March 5th leaping past $800 for the first time. Google’s market capitalization the next day hit $274 billion, bringing it to around two-thirds of Apple’s, up from around one-third six months earlier.

The reason for this dramatic change of fortune for Google is not hard to decipher. Besides its high revenue generating online advertising and online shopping business, its array of tastefully designed apps, as well as its Android operating system, is winning new converts and fast becoming the platform of choice for smart phones and tablet computers all over the world. The secret of Android’s continued rise is simple; its design has become slicker, more artistic and by implication more user friendly.

Google, under the leadership of Larry Page, has re-launched its design philosophy, revised its style guide for developers and now also encourages its designers to be more vocal about their views in a firm where software engineers used to dictate the pace. The result of this change of strategy is the phenomenal rise the firm is currently witnessing.

Such is the power of creativity, which in most cases is the difference between a very successful company and an unsuccessful one in the same segment. Business success in the 21st century depends on the ability to create and innovate. It takes imagination and creativity to discover opportunities for growth and to turn ideas into action.

Researchers have determined that our ability to generate innovative ideas is not merely a function of the mind, but also a function of behaviours. Linda Naiman, a creativity and innovation expert, writing in CW Bulletin on unlocking creative potentials, highlighted the position of the authors of The Innovators DNA, who opined that the most creative people in business are proficient at the following: Associating: (drawing connections between questions, problems, or ideas from unrelated fields), Questioning (posing queries that challenge common wisdom), Observing (scrutinizing the behaviour of customers, suppliers, and competitors to identify new ways of doing things) Networking (meeting people with different ideas and perspectives) and Experimenting (constructing interactive experiences and provoking unorthodox responses to see what insights emerge.)

All of the above happens to be attributes of artists (painters, poets, novelists, photographers and storytellers) who by the nature of their jobs are perpetually observing, experimenting, exploring, questioning assumptions and tasking their imagination and they presents important learning points for managers and business leaders world over.

Indeed, artists and business leaders have many similarities. Both have a guiding vision and a potent point of view, and can formulate an idea, navigating chaos and the unknown to produce a new creation. Since all great art pushes boundaries beyond established norms, it can teach us about leadership, change, ambiguity, chaos, courage and creativity. The arts take us on adventures in creative expression that help us safely explore unknown territory, overcome fear and take risks.

Being a leader in the 21st century requires creativity, artistry, empathy and the ability to cope with complexity. The purpose of arts-based learning is not to develop artists in your organisation, but to use the arts as a catalyst for developing skills in creativity, communication and collaborative leadership. Engaging in the arts facilitates meaningful dialogue, and helps us remember who we are as human beings. When we are in touch with our humanity, we envision better futures, make wiser decisions, and create sustainable enterprises.

Furthermore, for innovation to flourish, organisations must create an environment that fosters creativity, bringing together multi-talented groups of people who work in close collaboration together, exchanging knowledge and ideas. The way of doing this is promoting diversity in the organisation and letting people be themselves.

Usually, when companies try to accommodate differences, they too often confine themselves to traditional diversity categories – gender, race, age, ethnicity, and the like. These efforts, though laudable, only scratch the surface. True diversity must take into consideration such other attributes as differences in perspectives, world view, habits of mind, and core assumptions.

Conflicting and frictional thoughts and points of view can lead to new, valuable combinations of ideas. On account of their own particular view of the same problem, people with different backgrounds and from different disciplines are of great significance in the search for new solutions. They expand each other’s thinking framework. Consciously bringing together such people in projects and teams will create contexts for cross-fertilisation.

Its however not enough to employ a diverse people, managers must encourage them to freely express this diversity, to experiment, dive into the unknown, have conversations that matter, and generate creative solutions through learning labs and the crucible of transformation that occurs when engaging in the arts. Creative organisations realise fresh ideas require fresh fuel. They urge employees to snoop in all directions for new insights. They advocate personal diversions and intellectual diversity. And they infuse their workspaces with inspiring outside influences.

Organisations possess great opportunities in applying their creative potential to pursue success and competitive strength. As seen in the rise of Google, creativity-focused leadership embedded in a fertile organisational climate can generate a harvest of ideas for improvement and innovation from the entire workforce.