Looking at business and society today many ask what the score for modern organizations should look like? At Age of Artists we suggest five objectives for modern organizations that are the foundation for what we call the purpose-built and value-based organization:

  • Innovation – an organization needs to constantly innovate
  • Experience – an organization needs to target a seamless and delightful experience for all stakeholders
  • Social responsibility – an organization must contribute to a healthy society – locally and globally
  • Sustainability – an organization must attempt to secure for further generations, not destroy
  • Bottom Line – an organization must be able to sustain itself and its people

For businesses, it is obvious they must keep a sharp focus on their bottom line, as simply without that, they will not continue to exist, whereas art can exist theoretically without it. Or as Philippe Rixhon stated: “Creation can be purely artistic; Innovation must be artistic and economically viable.” Yet he continues the same thought by saying: “The introduction of multiple bottom lines in other business sectors–at least in their research and development departments and divisions–seems to be recommendable.” His suggestion to focus on research and development is certainly a good recommendation for large organizations for which it represents a major shift to go from one to five equally important objectives. For the purpose-built and value-based organization, however, the concept must be extended to the entire organization to be truly effective.

When looking at the five core objectives stated above, each taken individually is already difficult to accomplish, but taken altogether, they seem almost impossible. This is why the management literature and business libraries are full of successful titles that play with fear and include seemingly easy solutions to the major threats organizations face today: complexity, market dynamics, global competition, innovation pressures, customer and stakeholder expectations, and technology change. And we haven’t even started to put this into the larger context of a global society and fragile planet. Some solutions suggested including better planning approaches, new standards, sophisticated process models, more reports, stronger management, etc. Looked at individually, these might make sense, but when seen from above, they actually reduce the ability of an organization to accomplish the holistic set of objectives as outlined above. Each added piece further increases complexity, thus limiting people’s abilities to be successful–either individually or as a team.

Professor Michael Brater, sociologist and education specialist suggests that organizations learn from artists and look at how they act and make decisions under circumstances of uncertainty and unpredictability. According to his research, artists cope with openness and uncertainty not through objectification, but through the following qualities:

  • Unbiased, exploratory actions instead of pondering and planning
  • Free playful and experimental exploration without intention
  • Confidence in the intelligence of the unconscious
  • Alternating between action and perception, influencing and viewing
  • Expanding perception (“expression,” “feeling”)
  • Dialoguing with the subject: replying to “active questions”
  • Picking up what emerges from the subject and be carried and led (by it)
  • Accepting crises; allowing the solution to emerge from the process
  • Finding (again) the new and individual by following an original, unrepeatable and experiential path

Recognizing the major challenges that confront organizations, including the high degree of uncertainty and unpredictability, suggests another type of organization that must evolve: the purpose-built and value-based organization, which is likely to be more an environment that supports a working approach, as depicted by Michael Brater, than an organization in the classical, hierarchical sense. Such an environment needs to be supported by another type of leadership as well: Studio Leadership.

Michael Brater, “Wenn Arbeit Kunst wird…,“ Vortrag zum 2. Forum Wirtschaft meets Kunst, Freiburg, February 3, 2014.
Philippe Rixhon (2008), “Innovation leadership: Best practices from theatre creators,” in Führung, Innovation und Wandel (L. Becker et al., eds.), pp. 197-215.

Picture Source: Giovanni di Paolo, The Creation and the Expulsion from the Paradise, 1445, Wikipedia Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Creation-and-the-expulsion-from-the-paradise-11291.jpg#mw-jump-to-license

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