Friday, November 19, 2010

Think like an artist, work like an entrepreneur

According to Jana Lyn-Holly in an article from The Big Idea [
and used with Jana's permission]it takes a fine balance to stay on the edge of inspiration and be productive. Many of the attributes required to maintain that edge are shared by artists and entrepreneurs.

She explores the question 'I want to think like an artist and work like an entrepreneur – what do I need to know?'

What is your Theme Song?

Not every artist wants to be an entrepreneur and not every entrepreneur wants to be an artist. For both there is a lot of risk involved.

What is the biggest risk? Great art and entrepreneurship is full of disaster stories but don’t let that put you off doing what you love. Like John Lennon’s song, All you Need is Love. Love what you do, Love who you are, Love those who are drawn into your enterprise.

It may sound simplistic but 'simple' is a good place to start. All you need is Love. learn how to play the Game..learn how to be in Time. The first time I heard this song, I felt connected to something bigger than myself and these lyrics heard over and over, have moved me to action.

The beginning

In the formative stage of an enterprise, the focus is often about identifying what we’re about. Inspiration is high, there is a strong belief in the future. The arts can inspire the commitment required to get people involved.

An enterprise has its own life, its own DNA, but if the vision of the enterprise isn’t shared and there is not enough commitment (time, money, goodwill etc) it can die.

Is an entrepreneur one who loves the life of enterprise? In this article, I’ve drawn attention to various artists and entrepreneurs who’ve achieved success in the creative sector.

It takes a fine balance to stay on that edge of inspiration and be productive. Some of the attributes that seem to go with maintaining that edge are shared by artists and entrepreneurs.

A few years ago, I had the privilege to meet some of these remarkable people in focus groups across six regions of New Zealand. The purpose was to engage in strategic thinking that would strengthen connections between art sectors and the creative economy of the Nation.

I was contracted to be the visual artist documenting the discussions and I used the story telling analogy of Journey, travel, and maps to simply represent their ideas. The landscape of this Journey was specific to each region and included the challenges and aspirations of art practitioners.

Keep that analogy in mind because it’s a great little exercise in future thinking.

What if you sent yourself a postcard from the future? Where would it be sent from and what enticing images or text would it convey?

Thinking like an artist can open up the imagination for strategy and strategy is a pathway that takes us out of today’s reality and into tomorrow’s potential.

Who are Creative Producers and Artist Entrepreneurs?

Sir Richard Taylor’s Weta Workshop was started more than twenty years ago in the back room of a Wellington flat and is now an internationally acclaimed, award winning enterprise employing many talented artists.

In the spirit of the entrepreneur, he says “Tania and I have continued to challenge and develop our company by diversifying into a variety of new and intriguing creative ventures. These include a high-end licensing company producing limited edition high end art pieces for a community of discerning collectors. A chainmaille manufacturing company, a publishing arm, and most recently a mini museum and retail outlet called TheWeta Cave - a place that fans and enthusiasts for Weta's work can come and enjoy a look behind the scenes."

I’d like to acknowledge that I came to New Zealand on the invitation of artist/entrepreneur, Greg Whitecliffe. He’d established his own independent college of the arts, Whitecliffe, and was recruiting overseas staff. He had many of the attributes of the entrepreneur; bold, energetic, charismatic, focused, multi-skilled, and visionary. He was a powerhouse.

New Zealand has more than its share of these characters and I’ve been pleased to meet some of them and draw out their stories.

One of the first was the founder of Les Floralies, Colyn Devereux, who said that business is about having a dream.

I represented her story as a flowering plant growing out of a seed of an idea. I thought, “she was a solo mother with no money and look what she did - I could create an enterprise, too”. It really helps when artists and entrepreneurs meet each other. Who are some of the people that would inspire you? How do you get next to them? Learn from them and invite them to learn from you?

Look at this exercise on mapping your story for a helpful framework.

Who knows what you don’t know?

Go across disciplines. Meet people from a really different landscape to yours.

Be a life- long explorer of new perspectives and seek out the stars in those sectors.

I’d never have thought an accountant could be interesting until I met entrepreneur Rod Drury, CEO of the online accounting software company Xero. I listened to him speak about challenging the system at a Digital Summit and was riveted by his can-do approach to business start ups.

Another OMG entrepreneur is ex-pat New Zealander in corporate America , Andy Lark, I include him because he’s like a one man NZTE dynamo (and he loved the way I draw).

‘Small is cool’ he says, and meeting him was an epiphany that being in New Zealand isn’t a barrier to having presence in wider markets.

These people exemplify the value of making connections just like our brain constantly makes neural connections.

It was in the 1990s that the term Left Brain/Right Brain came into public language through, in part, research into multiple intelligences (Howard Gardner & Michael Grinder). I met Michael at a Learning Conference in the USA. He said the left side of our brain is stimulated by hearing, talking and sequential input and the right side is stimulated by stories, props, and movement. I remember him well because he complimented me, as the artist visualising his session, on my right brain left brain integration

Ever since, I’ve been an exponent of ‘whole brain’ integration. (Why function with half a brain when you’ve got a whole brain?)

I am attracted to brain-based research because it acknowledges the Arts as key to our learning experience; dance it, sing it, draw it, sculpt it, rap it, play with it and you’ll learn it.

Where is The Zone of Collaboration?

It is heartening when researchers validate the experience of the artist. One that comes to mind is Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (CHICK-zent-mi-high) and what he terms ‘flow states’ of the brain -the sense that one is immersed happily and meaningfully in the moment.

Entrepreneurs sometimes term this as being ‘in the zone’ and it is an experience that can be shared with others. This is collaboration at its best. This often happens in the Normative Stage of an Enterprise when the focus is on how we function. roles and responsibilities are key to running a business and interacting with the marketplace.

John Lennon sings ‘learn how to play the game, learn how to be in time’. That’s often the purpose of strategy, define’ the game’ and create time frames for achieving your outcomes. What are your measures of success?

As I mentioned at the start of this article, an enterprise has it’s own life; a beginning and an end. Some of the indications that disaster could be at hand is when you’re working harder and harder but getting less results. Or, there’s the stories of denial or arrogance that fill up conversations.

A disaster can be an opportunity for self-correction if you’re agile, willing to learn from your mistakes, and the situation isn’t too dire.

In the integrative stage of enterprise, the focus is on leadership and you’re anticipating rather than reacting to situations. This current global economic reality challenges artists and entrepreneurs to be leaders.

How do you lead by example? What clear vision can move you, and others, into a new era of prosperous creativity?

You can explore more of what Jana does at her web site