What does artistry have to do with work?

How your inputs define your output.

When working with people through the practices of the Studio, we sometimes are asked what does artistry have to do with work? In our responses, we often find ourselves bridging the commonalities of two different, yet uniquely symbiotic, worlds. After all, what would artistry be without production and what would work be without a moving end result?

In most circles, it’s accepted that art represents a world of spiritual and imagination input, while business represents the world of material output. While seemingly very different they have more in common than meets the eye.

At a time of near-perpetual change and turmoil with so many sectors, the leaders of business can learn and steal much from the artist. Steven Morris, in his work, has done this repeatedly and consistently over his 23 years in founding, growing and leading businesses—nearly all of which was working with organizations on innovative fronts through the lenses of branding, from and marketing and product development. As well, he has had the privilege to work with more than 250 businesses, ranging from start-ups to multinational Fortune 100 companies, and thousands of business leaders, where he has applied, tested and learned from the world of artistry at work.

The world of business has its own unique and potent language. It’s a language filled with ideas designed to drive work forward, make work happen, and get things done. Within this business language is a lexicon full of words and phrases that once belonged to the common world, but have had so much business usage, they belong solely there.

And, as it has been publicly discussed, the business world tends to be a hyper-masculine world. As a result, the primary focus for the business world is outcome-centric. And the language used mirrors this. Words and terms like profitability, productivity, customer satisfaction, retained earnings, dividends, returns are the outcome-focused language of the masculine business mindset. No doubt that outcome is important, if not critical, in our work, but it doesn’t start there.

The world of artistry has a different, yet tangential mindset to the business world. Artistry is a world focused first on noticing, input, intentionality, influence, investigation, and innovation, then on creation, making and presenting to the world. Thus the vernacular in the world of artistry mirrors this mindset and this language feeds the artists work with a wellspring of inspiration. This leads the artist to the creation of their art. It’s the whole point of artistry: to create the work and move people because of the work.

Artistry is the bridge between intentional conception and the master craftsmanship.

Once the artist masters their skills, they then transcend the technical qualities and flow into the imaginative realms of innovating, invention and creation. Mastery is what separates the virtuoso from the technician.

Think of the way that Richard Branson has worked well beyond the initial creation of Virgin Records and has now created companies in realms that range from airlines to banks, to healthcare, to energy, to galactic travel, and on and on. Sir Richard is a business virtuoso who keeps inventing beyond the boundaries of business as usual. Yet, you don’t have to create dozens of ventures to benefit from working with artistry.

The experienced and skilled artist realizes that because there is the constant drive and desire to create, she must be careful, selective and judicious in what drives, influences and inspires her work. Also true, the artist must be careful how they go about producing their works. Having a wild vision, clear intentionality, right skill and craftsmanship, masterful communication, risk-taking at the right junctures and the discipline to follow-through and finish the work with excellence, are all requirements of the artists, and of the business person.

The skilled artist knows that what she puts into the art will define the end result. The skilled business person works with artistry, too.

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Art at Work as Work of Art.

In the world of artistry, we call what we produce a work of art. A work of art can be defined as the result of a person who creates something that transcends their earned technical skills and produces a work that is beyond ordinary craftsmanship.

Management guru Peter Drucker is famous for saying, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Today’s artists are successful due to their ability to constantly refill the well of imagination and innovation.

Also true, many of the best artists are seen as cultural change-makers that navigate the complexities of contemporary society and culture. In doing so, they create works that break through the chatter and clutter of our media world. Artists like Leonardo da Vinci, to today’s Ai Weiwei, are essentially change-makers at heart.

Shifts in technology, markets, and competitive forces require organizations to modify their managerial approaches to running a business with more courageous leadership approaches that deploy vision, imagination, risk-taking, and creativity. These traits are born and bred in the world of artists, and leaders can learn to think, work, and live like an artists in their own business environments. Like the artist, the leader must draw on her own unique abilities, vision, values, and personality.

As with art, business practices must inspire creative energy, foster inspiration, and support the self-expression that leads to innovative leaps. When Peter Drucker said that “all profit is derived from risk,” this is also the path of the artist: to risk. In order to be innovative, organizations must take risks and venture into uncharted territories. Drucker also makes the case that only through profit can a company cover its potential losses while innovating. This is why the most ground-breaking companies are usually the most profitable—they profit from taking risks.

Working with artistry is a wholehearted, fully-integrated manner of working. In artistry, we bring our whole self to our work, and we deploy a careful and thoughtful process that amplifies and ignites the end results. While artistry itself still has a powerful outcome in mind, it keeps in mind the entire process of creating works of art, beginning with intentionality. What separates the artist from the non-artist in their work is how they go about their work.

Entrepreneurs, business leaders, directors, managers, and workers of all walks each have a choice in what approach and mindset they bring to their work. The artist chooses the whole-self approach to work.

“How we choose what we do, and how we approach it…will determine whether the sum of our days adds up to a formless blur, or to something resembling a work of art.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Author of “Flow”

True for art and business alike, what the artist inputs, define the outcome. The end result is a work of art that is built upon clear intentionality with the design to influence and move people through the sharing or performance of it.

By working with the Studio, leaders and business-people reap the benefits of discovering their own form of lived artistry. Below are some of the bridged characteristics and benefits we’ve noticed in the fusion of work and artistry.

Leader-artist…

  • …As intentional visionary: the leader who sees beyond the horizon and leads her team to new, innovative lands.
  • …As master craftsman: a skilled practitioner of their craft who’s willing to teach and mentor others to heighten their own mastery.
  • …As risk-taking adventurer: the confident explorer who takes leaps of innovation in order to break new ground.

Business-person-artist…

  • …As noticer: the team member who is actively listening with all their senses and making creative connections between uncommon things, birthing new opportunities and innovation.
  • …As connected collaborator: the collaborator who connects with their team and environment to create a blended team of makers, craftspeople, and artists.
  • …As master communicator: the skilled communicator that understands the power of their words and uses them to maximum effect.

What the Studio does: We use the time-tested principles of artistry to help organizations change and grow. Learn how here.

 

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