If business wants innovation, hire more artists


I remember back in kindergarten. A long time ago. Everyone seemed to be an artist. Crayons littered the floor, paint every where, chalkboards covered with drawings of random lines and shapes. There was “creative energy.” Every child left art class with at least one masterpiece destined for the fridge, fireplace mantel, or a proud parents’ office desk.

The big question of my career is what happened to all those little artists? Sure some of them when on to universities to become doctors, dentists, lawyers, and engineers. In the process what did they give up? Somewhere along their journey all that spontaneous creative energy got sucked out of them. I wonder after 30-years whether anyone of those professionals still calls themselves artists when the teacher calls out, “whos’ an artist.”

If you still call yourself an artist— you have a special gift for seeing the world differently. Artists tend to pick up on life’s details because they take the time to stop and observe. Designers and the creative class also have these observation skills. The way the “T” tucks into the word “Typography” pleases them. They take joy in seeing something for what it’s worth; there is more beauty than will ever be captured with pen and paper. I also believe art can help the sick and bring a sense of overall happiness to one’s life.

There are studies that show people suffering from dementia respond well to creating art as an activity. Dr Daniel C. Potts founder of Cognitive Dynamic states that, “patients can lose themselves in the moment as they create. Through the process of art therapy, relationships are built, empathy fostered, anxiety lessened, and a sense of mastery or control over their environment is developed.” Dr Potts observes, “roadblocks to verbal communication are bypassed through the artistic process, as individuals express themselves through the art. Concentration and attention improve, and patients are often easier to care for even when the therapy is over.” If creating art can help the sick why can’t it help everyone lead more productive and meaningful lives?

Somewhere in our journey, being an artist or pursuing art for the sake of enjoyment is sucked out of our being. We are told to follow our dreams, but don’t be a starving artist. There seems to be a lot of pent-up fear about being creative. Today, we are told be original; the next significant innovation is just around the corner, and creative thinking is now the hottest employment ticket. It seems that despite all the advances in digital technologies and artificial intelligence we can’t make a computer creative, we still need humans to create. So if creative based thinking is so essential to our future employment, why are artists or designers not paid more? Why are companies that value design don’t see value in accreditations such as the Associations of Registered Graphic Designers?

The reason is the words we use are from the last century. Being an artist or designer doesn’t accurately describe what designers do today. Human Resources hasn’t caught on to this idea that when business leaders are asking for help it is because they have difficulty articulating what innovation looks like. They are looking for a designer, or more specifically a visual problem solver. Designers understand that innovation is surprising elusive and the solution can’t be found in the numbers, because it’s a creative process that can’t initially be measured by key performance indicators. We can’t just drop the big idea from an Edison bulb. Thinking is hard work. It takes time, and failure is almost guaranteed–its part of the process that leads to success.

My career has danced between applied engineering, technology, and marketing. Fear of failure,” being that starving artist,” initially prevented me from a life of art and design. It wasn’t until I got into marketing that I made the connection between art, technology, and design. I’ve been most blessed in my career to have direct access to some top CEOs, and I’ve noticed all the good ones have incredible visions for the future. The biggest problem is they have difficulty articulating it in a way that inspires and engages the company. Enter the graphic designer, the modern artist for the page in a digital age. But, for heaven’s sake avoid the titles, “artist or graphic Designer!” The CEO is paying you to think and organize his or her thoughts. Visions are most often abstract creations of the mind. Designers have the skill of taking abstract ideas and make it concrete – real. In the design process, this is where the discoveries occur that lead to innovation. And this is why innovation is so elusive. It doesn’t occur at the management level. To foster an environment of collaboration, the business must support the artistry of design thinking.

Here’s the good news, anyone can be an artist. It is the act of creating something from your mind that didn’t exist before. Everyone writes, if you pick up a writing instrument, you are drawing. There’s a whole art to writing called, calligraphy. The study and pursuit of this activity is typography. Thinking is related to creativity. Everyone can draw and be an artist. The proof of this claim is in kindergarten, where all kids are artists.

If you have children, encourage art and writing in the same learning space at an early age. Guess what, the hottest skill right now for designers is creating infographics! There is something special about the ability to think with the goal of taking the complex and simplifying through images, drawings, colour, words, and organization. The ability to draw is most helpful, but it’s not the only skill needed to become an artist. The ability to edit, collect research, and distil information into a creative format is more and more being asked for by business professionals. The world needs more artists.

Source: How Art Therapy Enhances the Quality of Life for Dementia Patients. http://www.alzheimers.net

Photo caption: Art installation at the Forks, Winnipeg, 2017, Artist unknown


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