Artful work has proved to be imminent in the 21st century. We are now in the post-industrial era and have shifted to a knowledge value based economy. In the past, the business landscape was more predictable, and business leaders imposed rational models onto business. Henry Ford exploited Eli Whitney’s conception of assembly line production in order to prove that economies of scale could thrive by pushing down unit cost and allow price reductions to increase sales and profits. The industrial game has shifted from efficiency to improvement, from replication to innovation.
Businesses focus on human capital today. As opposed to earlier in the twentieth-century, workers themselves are at the helm of the business process. Workers have skills and talents and management does not consider them as interchangeable parts anymore. By thinking about workers as people, businesses now conceive of how all individuals can make a profitable use of their skills and talents rather than mere near automated processes.
Jane Greene and Anthony M Grant wrote in Solution-Focused Coaching that we have moved from this industrial era, which Marx called “the means of production”, to “a world where wealth and power lie in ideas, imagination, knowledge, and the information you control.”
What organizations need today are employees with talent and creativity. Greene and Grant wrote: “Today we don't’ need people to be machines. We have machines to be machines. We need people to think, learn and interpret and use the information that is available to us. We need individuals.”
The current business landscape requires that people are agile and even intuitive as well as possess emotional intelligence. In my previous blog, I wrote about perceptual intelligence and how all knowledge is derived from experience. Leonardo da Vinci said this himself. Just as certain theories of perception argue for a “bottom up” argument for knowledge construction, so too does contemporary day coaching and training conceive of an approach that works at the level of the individual as an “agent” in the system rather than focusing on problems or causes. When we focus on problems, we have the tendency to even perpetuate and exaggerate them.
By contemplating our experiences and intuitions, we can acknowledge discover our strengths and break new bounds. We tend to rely on logic and reason to solve our problems, but often this leaves us blind to more innovative solutions. As Greene and Grant write: “…we are moving from a very rational age to one where we are beginning to acknowledge that emotion, intuition and perception are important.”
Perceptual Intelligence through art teaches us how to tap into our innate creative potential. The experience of art induces a kind of loosening of conscious controls that allows us to fathom life experience in a new dimension. Malevich’s Suprematist Composition: White on White of 1918 may seem so obdurate and matter of fact, but when we contemplate the spiritual dimension of these simple, non-objective forms as colors with emotion placed artfully on a square canvas, we can conceive of a new ideal reality. There is even human touch in this canvas, which we can see by the facture of carefully place brushstrokes. We have no doubt there was actual human sensibility behind this work of art. This metaphor for reality gives the world an energy and fluid dynamism that we can intuit subjectively. The forms of this canvas help us realize that simplicity need not be static and can rather have an elegant “logic” of its own that we cannot pin down by rational explanation.
Art on the cusp of human innovation is emergent, just as Greene and Grant explain solution-focused coaching. When we analyze a work of art, we are looking for the artist’s solutions to a problem. We can actually follow that artist’s path of creativity through a kind of “mirror experience.” Once you begin to fathom solutions utilizing your own emotional intelligence, intuition and imagination, you are able to see beyond your mental barriers. Herein lies the key to innovation and creativity in the everyday.