Wednesday, November 9, 2005

The Art of Leadership: Harvard agrees with me!

There's a very interesting article over at Harvard Business School's "Working Knowledge" site about how "adaptive leaders" share many talents and attributes with artists. The basic idea being that working with the resources and media of your business -- money, logistics, personnel --  may require as much creativity as working with the media of traditional fine arts -- clay, paint, the words of a poem, etc.

I love this article for three reasons.

  1. I love it for the same reason I love most of the stuff that comes out of Harvard's presses, especially HBR. It's well written, highly informative and so much more interesting than 99.5% of the dreck that passes for "business news" out there.

  2. It's true.

  3. It's in agreement with something I've been saying for years.

Hooray! Harvard agrees with me!

I've been giving a speech/talk for about three years now (you know... the kind that they drag you into doing when you're on a committee and they can't find anyone to fill the lunch speaker slot at the last minute) on the "Creative Split" between artistic and scientific creativity. I won't go into the whole she-bang-a-bang in this post, but the basic point is that around about the end of the 17th century, folks started to really differentiate between the types of thought used for creating art vs. creating other stuff. Ever since, we've kept them sort of... well... apart.

Remember Leonardo DaVinci? Great scientist. And a great artist. He was, in many ways, the model for the "conjoined mind." Somebody who didn't think about creativity as having to be either "one thing" or "t'other." It just... was.

We go on a bunch in our culture about left and right brain thinking. That may be part of it. But I don't think so. There's plenty of "right brained" creativity going on in science, engineering, technology and the business world. But do we automatically think of that work as "creative?"

We should. You should.

I had a friend in the Finance department back at Verizon who would joke that he wasn't creative, and shouldn't be, because, "Nobody wants us engaging in 'creative finances.'" He was being cute, of course. But he was also one of the most creative thinkers I've known. He was always helping the business design new ways to approach billing and pricing issues. He was an artist who used Excel as well as my designers use Photoshop.

So... when you think about how you want to improve your own creativity, or that of your company, make sure you remember to include the boardroom in your plans. Not just the artroom.

[Note: as a Cornell alum, the jumping-up-and-down, hands-pressed-to-face, tearful joy of the title of this post is meant to be more than a little ironic. I do like HBR... but wasn't ever going to change my tune if they didn't agree with me.]

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