What can business leaders learn from artists?

Many companies have turned to the art world to inspire creativity

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 31 MARCH 2021. The Art Dubai exhibition opens again to the public after having cancelled their 2020 event. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: None. Section: National.
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The 14th edition of Art Dubai, Dubai's annual art event concluded yesterday. One of the leading events in the region for art lovers brought together artists, business leaders and people from a range of backgrounds in the emirate.

As an Emirati growing up in the UAE, I’ve witnessed the increased interest in the arts over the years. Fellow millennials are collecting artworks by regional and international artists, and a number of entrepreneurs are also seeking inspiration in art.

It is even being used as a tool in combatting Covid-19-related stress. Zulay Romero, an art therapist in the US, has been providing art therapy sessions which specifically address Covid-19 related stresses, to employees at the CarolinaEast Medical Centre in North Carolina.

More and more business leaders are embracing the arts, not just by attending events such as Art Dubai and acquiring artworks, but as an important part of their business, working with artists on management and innovation. In 2010, Polaroid hired American pop star Lady Gaga as its creative director to develop a line of co-branded products. In the following year, Intel hired US-based musician Will.i.am as its creative director.

Integrating artists into businesses and embracing the type of creative approaches artists take to their work is essential in this day and age. Businesses are pushed to navigate through unforeseen challenges, and to constantly innovate in an environment where many tasks will become automated. This makes those with creative and artistic skills who can help with business innovation more valuable for employers.

So what can we learn from artists and how do we apply that to business innovation?

Be curious

Artists remind us that opportunity lies in curiosity. A friend of mine is a portrait painter. She often seeks inspiration in the hiking trails of Oman. This would seem like an odd place for a portrait painter to seek inspiration, but she admits that the curiosity she pushed herself to develop, helps her tremendously. Artists are curious. My friend reads different genres of books, and always looks for new areas to explore. She rarely dines in the same place twice. As business owners, we may be guilty of sticking to a certain routine and not have time for recreation, but a curious mind can lead to abundance of opportunities. The more you explore, the more information you will come across, the more people you meet and the more inspired you would be. It’s a habit worth investing in.

Take time to create

Another worthwhile investment to make is to dedicate time to create great things. In a business world that pushes to produce things fast, we forget that masterpieces often take time. It took Michelangelo four years from 1508-1512 to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. You don’t necessarily need four years, but we can’t always rush inspiration, especially when we are working on big or revolutionary ideas. Give yourself ample time to research and foster an idea that could last as a masterpiece for centuries to come. In a nutshell, create time to brainstorm and let your imagination run wild.

Be bold

It takes courage for artists to put their work out there, especially projects that take years to complete, knowing that it may be criticised or made fun of. This is a habit we could borrow from artists, by being more assertive, sharing our thoughts and insights and embracing risks.

Ask questions

Last but not least, learn to question everything. Artists critique, ask questions and engage in dialogue. Seek advice from mentors and ask them to teach you a skill or two. Embrace the fact that every person out there has a lesson to teach you and that lesson could help you to come up with a new idea or reach your business goals faster.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi.