Everyone knows Steve Jobs, the genius who knew how to create innovative, beautiful and extremely futuristic products. The master in combining ideas, technology and art in ways that invented the future; the one who understood, probably better than anyone else, that the best way to create significance and value in our times is to connect technology with creativity.
If you are familiar with Jobs’ history, you probably know that one of his favorite places was the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center’s (aka PARC). Xerox R&D center brought us the graphical user interface (GUI), object-oriented programming, laser printing and other great inventions. Why you should care? If you are a tech entrepreneur or manager, you might find one of the ways PARC managed to attract creative people and reach technological breakthrough as inspiring.
You are probably familiar with the challenge of attracting talented people. If you are in the tech scene, you must be familiar with the great meals, gym, crazy trips and fun working environments that startups are forming in order to attract good employees. However PARC did something else. They were famous for their inventions as well as their PAIR – Palo Alto Artist-in-Residence (AIR) program, which brought artists to work with PRAC’s scientists and engineering teams.
So, the question is, can art be a new addition to the startups’ toolkit?
Apparently yes. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Adobe, Autodesk and other tech companies have already launched their artists-in-residence programs. In her article “Tech companies are investing in artists to improve creativity” on Quartz, Tina Amirtha brought examples from these AIR programs.
“The tech industry has been sponsoring artist-in-residency programs to tap into artists’ creative thinking skills, in the hopes that their engineering teams will learn something new or, at least, that the public will see their products in a new light,” She wrote.
“The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin, even, or even different parts of the same continuum, but rather they’re manifestations of the same thing,” Said Mae Jemison, the first African-American Woman in Space. Companies that realized this and have converge the two in a significant and genuine way, created breakthroughs. Apple and Xerox are just two famous examples.
The question is how do artists help companies in their innovation process? One example that Amirtha brought was the one of Planet Labs’ artist-in-residence program. Part of the work in “Art Meets Aerospace” invite artists to collaborate with the company’s team. One such collaboration was to “cover a constellation of the company’s satellites with Forest Stearns artwork in 2013. But space posed a unique design constraint on Stearns: solar radiation and extreme environmental temperature shifts would melt and degrade the paint and ink he worked with, making them hazards to the delicate optical hardware in the satellites. So Stearns worked with Planet Labs’ engineering team to come up with a technique that etched the artwork from Stearn’s illustrated canvases onto the bodies of the satellites with lasers,” she reported.
Thus, by having their own artists-in-residence program, tech companies can test new products, materials or services, reach new audience and most importantly tap into the creative process of artists. It is true that not every startup can start their own artists-in-residence. However until you could, you can host an artist talk at your company, collaborate with artists on a project, visit a gallery or screen a video art installation.
Creativity is the name of the game in our days; managers speak about creativity; companies launching programs, workshops and fostering creative environments – so, why not work with the arts?