CEOs, Leaders, and Artists on Creativity in Business and Art

Business and Art have more in common than you might think

Carlos Santana on his creative process:

Everything starts with an idea, with imagination. Imagination and vision are essential in my music and in the way we conduct our business. Sometimes the mind gets in the way, and we start thinking that we’re this or we’re that or that we’re separated. The way it translates is that you take time to feel your heart.

For example, your imagination is like a muscle. If you take the time to just sit down and just close your eyes and imagine things, it’s like a muscle you develop. That’s why it’s good to turn off all the computers, TV and noise and just sit with yourself for a while. You can get beyond the noise and you get to hear this voice. This voice sounds very different than all the other accusing voices or guilt voices and fear. Once you start hearing this voice, it is very soothing, gentle and is very non-accusing. And then you can expand upon the ideas and make them a reality.

Vision and integrity are more important to me than all of the zeros on the right. I am only interested in a partnership that utilizes great vision to make a positive difference in the world.” Read the full interview here: Carlos Santana On Creativity In Business And Art – Forbes.

Rich Gold, from an early draft of his book The Plenitude: Design and Engineering in the era of Ubiquitous Computing

Innovation is a thing of genius. When getting up in the morning, or while taking a shower, or while staring at a blank canvas, or while pounding at a keyboard, visions simply appear in the mind of the innovator. Wonderful visions, so powerful that the innovator has to do them, is compelled to realize them. They are special visions and in many ways above critique or even reason. It is considered a high moral act to follow these visions; it is immoral, and in some cases even illegal, to destroy something that came from such visions (think of burning a Picasso). This pattern relies on two pre-conditions: first the belief in a special mind, the mind of genius. This genius can be inherent, or it can be the result of practice and training, usually both. Second, it relies on a deep personal belief in oneís own visions that compels the innovator to make them real.

In 1938, Chester Carlson invented the copy machine. It came to him more or less as a vision and it would take 20 years or dogged pursuit before somebody would buy it. In fact, for most of those twenty years, when he was alone with his vision, people said it was a bad idea. ìWho needs such an expensive machine? We already have carbon paper.î But Carlson did not give up. He believed in his vision. It came from a mental process that he trusted. It did not come from the world, except to the degree that the world was processed through his gray matter.

Richard Branson from his book Business Stripped Bare

Business is creative. It’s like painting. You start with a blank canvas. You can paint anything – anything – and there, right there, is your first problem. For every good painting you might turn out, there are a zillion bad paintings just aching to drip off your brush. You pick a colour. The next colour you choose has to work with the first colour. The third colour has to work with the first and the second…

People who bad-mouth businessmen and women in general are missing the point. People in business who succeed have swallowed their fear and have set out to create something special, something to make a difference to people’s lives.

C. Otto Scharmer (author of Theory U) and Katrin Kaeufer from their paper: “In front of the blank canvas: sensing emerging futures”

How we choose to attend to the world is the leverage we have to determine the outcome of our actions. When an artist stands in front of a blank canvas she has a choice to reproduce patterns of the past or to connect to her deeper intention. Every leader, every actor, and every group has the same choice.

It was twentieth-century German avant-garde artist Joseph Beuys’s fundamental claim that ‘‘every human being is an artist,’’ meaning that every human being can connect to his or her source of creativity. We believe that connecting to this source of creativity requires connecting to our deeper authentic self, and that this connecting to the highest future possibility, both individually and collectively, is in fact the essence of leadership today.

Source: VOL. 31 NO. 4 2010, pp. 21-29, JOURNAL OF BUSINESS STRATEGY

Art is more than a metaphor, it sparks imagination, animates creativity, guide innovation and enlivens us as human beings.

Photo credit: Larry Philpot, .Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Linda Naiman

As founder of Creativity Work, I help executives and their teams develop creativity, innovation, and leadership skills via arts-based learning and design thinking. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases on blog posts)

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