Innovation is a fundamental key for any modern business corporation success. Yet the question of how to achieve innovation remains an enigmatic question for many companies. The role of science in innovation is crucial. It is probably the main source of innovation in companies. Scientists who frequently consider themselves as outsiders are occupied with discovering nature’s phenomena, which in turn, can be transformed to products that change our lives.
So when we are looking to boost innovation in the business world using science, can art play a role?
If you read our blog you will know that the answer is: Obviously yes!
This idea of cross-disciplinary innovation was expressed a long time ago; in the mid -1940’s, C.P Snow discussed the potential opportunities for innovation and creativity,possible through the intersection of art and science. In his book, The Two Cultures: A Second Look he wrote:
The clashing point of two subjects, two disciplines, two cultures – of two galaxies, as far as that goes – ought to produce creative chances. In the history of mental activity that has been where some of the breakthroughs came.
The best modern evidence to this successful collaboration between science and art can be seen at PAIR, the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center’s (aka PARC) artist-in-residence program. The PARC, for those who are not familiar, is Xerox R&D center. The center is famous for the developments of the graphical user interface (GUI), object-oriented programming, laser printing, Ethernet and many others. So when Xerox started their PAIR program, they sought to bring together these two creative groups: artists and scientists. Central to the PAIR’s design are the importance of cultural exchange, the exploration of collaboration and the creative process.
The idea behind PARC and its program was straightforward; if you put creative people in a hothouse setting, innovation will naturally emerge. Artists are creative, that we all know, but scientists also. The most famous example is Da Vinci, a scientist, mathematician and an artist. However it seems that during the years, the appreciation that scientist can be an artist and vice versa has kind of disappeared. There was segregation to groups: “the creatives” and “the analyticals”, the right and left brains.
Why? A good question which honestly, we don’t have clear answer (would love to hear your thoughts)! We think what’s more important is that we see a renaissance of renaissance thinking: art and science can, and should, go together.
“Good science and good art are the same,” said David Eagleman, a famous neuroscientist, enthusiastically in previous interview . “Science and art are both creative processes where you make leaps and have some way of filtering them. A good creative person, scientist or artist, generates lots of ideas and has the capacity to throw a lot of them out.” He continued.
What does it mean for managers in the business world?
Managers who are looking to create a breakthrough in their business should also take brave steps; that means changing their “MBA thinking” to more open and multi-disciplinary thinking that goes beyond marketing, finance, and strategy. Managers and their teams should be exposed to, and engage in, the arts.
Artists can be a driving force in your attempts to reveal new discoveries and blind spots. Artists can take a product and ask “why can’t we use it in that way?” Or “what if we did this with that product?” Questions that can help the business look at existing products or problems from new angles. What’s more important for managers to understand is that artists should join early on in the research & development process – in the “thinking” stage. Not at the end of it, when the company already has a product or service ready to be launched.. Artists that will join early at the process to the R&D teams can foster new ways of thinking, raising questions for obvious topics and enhance the teams’ horizon.