Earlier this week John Eger published a post on ARTSblog, a forum hosted by Americans for the Arts, entitled, “The Future of Business is the Arts”.  The piece included many compelling points, and responding to all of them in a single post would be ambitious.  In lieu of that, it seemed best to focus on a single thread.  So, here goes:

In the final paragraph of Mr. Eger’s post he suggests what seems to me to be a logical action step.  He writes,

“Lastly though, business execs and artists don’t mix, don’t talk to one another. They may not even know each other. A new effort to change all that might work. Just getting to know one another might be the first step for communities in cities everywhere.”

The blending of arts and business has yielded many fruitful partnerships.  Examples of such partnerships (as well as the benefits that often result) are numerous.  The need for breaking down silos seems to be increasingly emphasized.  Presumably, more can be understood and achieved through collaboration than rigid delineation.  What benefits might occur from considering creativity and innovation in this same spirit, softening the delineation between the two?

Last February I read a fantastic post written by Louise Stevens which contained the phrase “creativity-innovation partnership”.  The phrase immediately resonated, as it aptly and succinctly describes the continuum between individuals’ creativity and the type of creative outcomes we broadly refer to as innovation.  Viewing creativity and innovation as a continuum reveals the direct connection between the activities that inspire and support individuals’ creativity and the attainment of innovate outcomes.  Thinking of the continuum in this way—as a true partnership—enables me to envision various points along an imaginary line.

Near the left end of this line are the foundational activities that support individuals’ creativity, such as travel, exposure to new music, taking photos, or, perhaps the most iconic example, sitting in on a calligraphy class in college that will forever shape one’s worldview.  Foundational activities whet the appetite of the imagination.  Near the right end of this line are myriad examples of innovation.  Only one end tends to make headlines.

Those activities which comprise the foundation for innovation are less sexy, but such activities are critical if the imaginary line is to remain intact.  The varied points along the continuum which are relevant to individuals’ creativity are integral to producing innovative outcomes.  Very often the matter of individuals’ creativity is seemingly relegated to one silo and innovation to another.  Such sharp delineation robs us of making the valuable connection between creativity-relevant activities and innovative outcomes.  Understanding the partnership as a continuum inherently softens sharp delineation, allowing us to recognized the relevance between activities we might not immediately see as being meaningful to the innovation process.  Rather than regarding creativity as a silent partner—necessary, but not always the public face—we ought to encourage greater visibility.

How does this relate to Mr. Eger’s suggestion?  The artistic mind is emblematic of innovation and problem solving in action…that is, constant observation, reflection and imagination, always with the intention of producing something novel.  Such habits of mind are universal elements of the creative process, and are necessary for producing innovate results, regardless of the domain or discipline.  Creating additional opportunities for dialogue between arts and business is one immediate way to explore innovation using the lens of creativity.  In doing so, the connection between these two concepts, as well as the nature of their partnership, may become better understood.

What would these opportunities look like?  Where would we plot them on the imaginary line?

© 2011 Kira Campo