Art and Business Management – How to Develop a “Gut Feeling”

by | Feb 1, 2015

shutterstock_51431728_bWhat I liked about my MBA  is the way I discovered interesting materials, books, and articles. One of these articles I read recently is a Harvard Business School article written by Alden M. Hayashi. I found this article, “When to Trust Your Gut?”, very curious due to the author’s analysis of the “gut” feeling and ways it can be developed (one important thing to mention: the article was published in 2001 and brought examples from popular companies at the time. I believe that even though the people and companies mentioned are not active or less relevant the message they tried to send is clear and valid in our days as well).

Why is this “gut” feeling important and why am I writing about it in my blog? Because I believe that certain characteristics described in this article can be found and develop by engaging with art.

Now, one might think that “gut” feeling is not an important subject but if you desire to reach a senior management position in the business world you should read it.
I prefer to quote from the article Ralph S. Larsen, chair and CEO (at the time of the article) of Johnson & Johnson. He explains:

“Very often people will do a brilliant job up through the middle management levels…but then they reach senior management, where the problems get more complex and ambiguous and we discover that their judgment or intuition is not what it should be. And when that’s happens, it’s a problem; it’s a big problem”.

In our days, in a fast-paced environment, managers don’t have the privilege to analyze and spend their time reviewing each part of the business but rather “have to make decisions in a timely manner. And that means that we process the best information that’s available and infer from it and use our intuition to make a decision” as Richard Abdoo, chair, and CEO of Wisconsin Energy Corporation, was cited in the article.

In research that studied the influence of the right brain on decision making, Antonio R. Damasio discovered that decision making is far from a cold analytic process. Damasio claims that our emotions and feelings are a crucial part of the decision process. But balanced emotions are what lead us to an intuitive decision.

This intuition is located in the “right-brain” where the subconscious and emotions are. So how can executives develop and practice this intuition? A few of the CEOs who were interviewed in the article suggest their own different ways:

Bob Pittman, president of AOL, says that among other ways he courts his intuitive skills by placing himself in unfamiliar situations.

Michael Eisner, CEO of Walt Disney Company, says that when he hears a good idea, his body reacts in a different way; he feels a sensation “that is like looking at a great piece of art for the first time”.

If we take these two simple examples and look at them from an art perspective we can see that art offers these opportunities to develop this “gut” feeling. Art is a space where ambiguity and unfamiliar territory can be explored.
How many times have you gone into a museum and seen an artwork that you didn’t know or understand, or weren’t familiar with? How many times have you found yourself exploring your inner world to understand it? By learning and challenging while observing art and then looking for the answers, I believe, can develop our intuition.

This feeling that Michael Eisner was talking about, it’s a feeling that you will get to sense after seeing and engaging with art for long periods. This is a moment that comes at a certain time after you learn to appreciate and understand the aesthetics and the beauty of art.

The source of creativity – in this case, art – is coming from the right brain. It lives there, and when you bring yourself to the art you bring yourself to your own right brain, you learn what you like and what not, what is an emotional experience for you, what is the feeling of the artist when he/she created these artworks. Take for example Marc Rothko…see his paintings and you will see how sorrow looks, how happiness looks – and all he did was use colors.

We are happy to hear your thoughts!



Read more about the intersection of art and business in our blog

Interested in bringing this perspective into your own company? Check out The Artian’s trainings!


What can we create together?