I spent some time yesterday with an artist. Gwen Laine has some amazing work and has recently gifted an installment to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. (If you’re in the Springs or passing through, take a minute to swing by and check it out. Or click here to see the work online.)
Gwen’s art is often installed without any kind of trial run. The installation is the final expression of the vision. Gwen’s latest work wasn’t even installed by her. She provided the FAC detailed instructions and then let it go.
I asked Gwen what it was like to create something that she doesn’t see complete until it’s installed. Does it typically match her vision or not? Her answer was enlightening. She doesn’t have a clear picture of the final outcome. She told me you have to be comfortable with letting the materials and the process inform the outcome. You can’t be constrained by a static end vision.
What an amazing example of the creative mind at work and how desperately business needs this kind of perspective. Have you ever been a part of a branding, strategic, or other planning process that stuck by a left-brain directed dogma? A by-the-book, follow-the-process-chart approach? Without a willingness (and ability) to recognize and adapt to the unique talents within the team — to be free from the constraints of predetermined models and outcomes — you probably missed breakthrough ideas.
Or worse, you might have disengaged people when it came time to execute against the plan. If you stick to the dogma and model, plans tend stay on paper (or pixels). That’s not me in that plan. That’s a box. That’s not my talent. That’s an arrow.
My conversation with Gwen reminded me of a FaceBook note from Wynton Marsalis. Describing his music composition process, Wynton references
…melodic and rhythmic themes, diverse styles of music, snatches of conversations, personalities of people I know or I have known, feelings of experiences I have had, techniques from other art forms, high and low minded personal aspirations, and all in the context of some malleable musical form.”
Wynton applies this process to living. With apologies, I’d add that we should apply more of this right-brained perspective to business:
People and opportunities aren’t merely data and parts of process charts. They’re materials, highly malleable and with talents waiting to be uncovered and put to use.
It’s part of a balanced, complete picture of the planning process you have to keep in mind. If you can’t, I suggest finding an artist’s mind to keep it in.