For quite some time, corporate business has capitalized on the idea of capitalistic professionalism. When we think of the “business world,” we imagine men in dark suits hurrying around a plain office, struggling to meet deadlines, pumping out assembly lines of identical products or sitting in fancy offices waiting for the next board meeting. Even “creative” industries like advertising have been relegated to the Mad Men vision of corporate America.
But since the rise of the tech companies back in the 80s (Watch Triumph of the Nerds), and espcially these days, the new, young workforce isn’t buying into the Wall Street ideal. In droves, young workers are seeking jobs where they can be creative, make things they are proud of and feel comfortable in the workplace. Tech companies have been embracing new office ideologies and features, and it seems to be working for them. A lot of these ideas come from artists and their attitudes.
So what we can learn from artists and their attitudes that will help us in business?
Leonardo da Vinci
TAKE PRIDE IN YOUR WORK
Artists often strive for perfection, but they also seek to create something that resonates with their own ideas. The products, content, and service you provide should be a reflection of your ideas. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and don’t settle for “good enough” or “the way everyone does it.” Leonardo Da Vinci told artists to “Make sure it’s so good it doesn’t die with you,” and you can apply that to any product or service. Take a look at the legendary designer Dieter Rams from Braun. Rams designed more than 500 products during a 40-year career — some are still around and became a reference for what is an excellent product.
If you create something and can proudly say that it is a reflection of your business, your confidence will transfer to your customers. They will appreciate your innovation and quality.
BALANCE PROFESSIONALISM WITH AUTHENTICITY
Relaxed dress codes and open office spaces are part of an effort to encourage comfortable, authentic atmospheres in the workplace. Professionalism denotes a level of respect for customers, coworkers, and superiors, and it is up to you to decide what that means for your business. However, be wary of enforcing professional attitudes to the point of fake interactions.
Art relies on authenticity — you can’t “fake it till you make it” in the art world. Honest, authentic communication will not only improve your products but also encourage positive attitudes and intrinsic motivations among your teams. If a worker feels that she can make a suggestion without overstepping boundaries, she will be more likely to think innovatively about her work. The same goes with customers; trust is the basis for a flourishing and prosperous business.
Dieter Rams Famos Snow White
FINISH WHAT YOU START
Artist Giovanni DeCunto claims that the world is full of unfinished projects. From his perspective, when a canvas (or any project) goes unfinished, it can still be seen and interpreted by viewers. Your business may have the same problem. Every project should be viewed through to its completion to present the best possible face for your business.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment, prototype and try. It just means being more thoughtful about the whole process — look to the future, but start with the small steps today.
Additionally, you will be more confident moving forward if your work reflects the full depth of the plan you had for it. Unfinished art is not a true reflection of the intended meaning — and neither are unfinished projects.
The traditional corporation depends on a set of rules on how to communicate, how to advertise, and how to conduct business. But today, people are overwhelmed with so much information that it is important to stand out. Just think of how many commercials, ads, and messages we see in a day. How can we, as businesses, stand out? By being original. See this great example of a commercial by Mountain Dew, who created a memorable, original (if perhaps a bit weird) ad that made an impact on viewers. That is what your business needs to do.
Art goes out of its way to be disruptive, to be new, to make people think (even though some will argue on this as well). You don’t need a PuppyMonkeyBaby to do this — you just need to be original. Use your own interpretations and opinions on today’s world. Communicate in new ways.
…BUT VALUE CRITIQUE
Being different and disruptive doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to other opinions. Artists, and especially art students, are accustomed to hearing critique, incorporating useful feedback into their work, and defending their choices. Practicing accepting critique can vastly improve not only your products but your entire process. This is what stands at the basis of the Lean Startup Method — get feedback, iterate, improve and continue. Whether you implement a suggestion or defend your existing product, you will be more confident and more successful moving forward. You will know that you are putting out the best possible version of your business.
FOCUS ON CREATING
This may seem obvious from the word “creative,” but the best way to please your customers is to give them something new, something useful. Whatever your business’s niche, you need to create the best possible product or service. Many managers are focusing on executing existing models and running with winning products. Artists don’t focus on the money or the acclaim — these are things that come with time. Focus on what you are putting out, and let sales and success come second. This shift in motivation and focus will resonate with your customers and your employees alike.
These are just a few lessons that art can impart to the business world. What can you achieve by implementing them?