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  • Vishnuviraj Dhir

Can businesses use Art to generate blue sky thinking?

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

The Sibyl has noticed another curiosity: unforced thinking appears to lead to originality

This article is inspired by a presentation I delivered during my years in sixth form for my school’s Philosophy Society. The presentation focused on the ‘advancement of creativity’ and how this might be achieved: I asserted that that the mere observation of art helps trigger original thinking.

Similarly, in this article I shall argue that companies and firms should encourage employees and directors to observe various artworks because this will help foster creative thinking and stimulate innovation.

Creativity is important because the world in which we live in today undergoing rapid change: the rate of change is accelerating each year evident in the advancements in technology witnessed through the ground-breaking work of Elon Musk to changes in robotics, genetics and AI. These advancements and changes are the result of individuals like Musk spotting and riding Black Swans, disruptive ideas finding gaps in the market and using them to craft the next revolutionary breakthrough.

Therefore, to survive and ultimately thrive we all need to be creative enough to spot the next big trend, doing so could lead to lucrative results.

But how does one look through the fog of uncertainty to find the next ‘game changer’?

Evidence suggests that the simple act of looking and enjoying art works in an environment of unforced thinking is enough to trigger original thinking. Tried and tested methods are being used by the most influential and prominent companies and institutions who have consistently been able to spot mega trends; companies such as Microsoft, Google, Harvard, Yale and Stamford.

Interestingly, art is a common dominator amongst all these institutions acting as a key and central catalyst in their plans. For instance, top universities such as Harvard and Yale are spending millions on building art collections and university museums, with Yale spending a colossal sum of $135 million to build their museum.

Moreover, art has attracted the hearts and minds of not just businesses but also emerging countries, art museums and galleries are mushrooming all over the world: China has begun introducing its soft power in the realm of art by building museums at the rate of one per day. Furthermore, the UAE completed a £663 million deal with France for the Abu Dhabi Louvre.

Yet, the businesses, establishments and countries that I have mentioned above have invested in art not just to engage in a ‘competitive …. new kind of arms race’ (The Art Newspaper, 2017) but to also enhance imagination.

Stamford University sees the arts as “absolutely vital to the next generation of problem solvers … and bring something new into the world”.

In addition, Harvard medics are also harnessing the ‘upper hand’ of studying artworks in museums through ‘active looking’ and not forced attention, discussing their observations to one another. Research suggests that these students can make nearly 40% more clinical observations than those who have not taken the course. Therefore, leading to more accurate and faster diagnoses in their professional lives.

With this in mind, businesses and law firms should follow in the footsteps of these Harvard Medics: if law firms encouraged their associates and partners to study artworks, in a manner similar to those of Harvard Medics, then this may not only improve their ability to find legal solutions to their clients’ problems but also their commercial awareness and foresight.

As art has proven to enhance an individual’s observation skills, those firms and businesses who encourage their employees to observe art will have an ‘edge’ over those who do not. Simply put, those in commerce who observe art will have higher probability of ‘connecting the dots’ and spotting new disruptions in the commercial world and as such they have a greater chance of reacting and finding innovative solutions for whatever is around the corner.

In light of this I shall leave you with 2 artworks: just sit back, relax, and simply observe the artworks for a few minutes. Afterwards try to note down any differences, similarities and the themes of both pieces: there is no right or wrong answer, the exercise is meant to open your mind and explore different avenues.

  • Emil Nolde (1867 - 1956)

  • 'The Dance Around the Golden Calf' (1910)

  • Andre Derain (1880 - 1954)

  • 'The Dance' (1906)

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