from R&D Innovator
Volume 6, Number 2
for Transforming Business: The
Mr. Grossman is president of Double Dominance, an innovation and creativity consulting service in Maple Shade, New Jersey (phone 609-779-0702). He is a faculty member of The Creative Education Foundation and is co-author of Innovation, Inc. (Wordware Publishing, Plano, Texas, 1988).
through the public area of many of the Fortune 500 companies and
you’ll find the walls and atria lined with artworks.
Paintings and sculpture are as much a part of the trappings
of corporate success as the skyscraper and golden parachute. Go beyond the public areas, however, and the aesthetic gives
way to the practical. The
sole image in most company board rooms is the austere portrait of
the company founder.
art and commerce are separated.
When Donald Trump titled his book, “The Art of the
Deal,” the result was raised eyebrows in both the artistic and
corporate communities. Business
leaders see themselves as practical problem solvers.
Use the word “creative” and it had best be followed by
“solution.” In business, “creativity” and “art” are most
comfortably confined to the advertising department.
practicality and problem-solving skills never built a great
leaders build great companies, and the marks of a great leader are
also those of the great artist:
discontent with the status quo, 2)
The development of a vision that responds to this
discontent, and 3) The creative communication of that vision in a
way that has a strong impact.
all walk around in a present that’s filled with compromise and
tradeoffs. Over time,
our consciousness is dulled as we tend not to be personally
affected by much of what is. We accept that
this is the way things are and, therefore, should be. The great business leaders and artists, however, don’t
accept what is as a
final, inexorable declaration.
As the painter Delacroix, said, “What moves men of
genius, or rather, what inspires their work is not new ideas, but
their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is
and leaders remain sensitive to these small irritations, and it is
this sensitivity that motivates them to search for something
better. George Prince in The
Practice of Creativity (Collier Books, New York, 1970) has
called this state “constructive discontent.”
Constructive, because it initiates a process whose final
outcome not only nourishes the leader, but enhances the quality of
life for all those who are affected by it.
inward, this heightened sensitivity and dissatisfaction could
create physical or psychological pathology.
Turned outward, and used as a source of problem solving, it
initiates a creative search whose successful conclusion serves as
a monument to the artist or business leader.
Someone once said that the well-adapted person adapts to
society, while the ill-adapted tries to make society adapt to him.
All significant change, therefore, is determined by
the imaginative person, “constructive discontent” leads to a
dream or a sense of “what
could be.” The
artist or business leader structures a place within himself that
transcends what he perceives as the shackles of the present.
He starts creating a future in which he’s an active
Luce, the founder of Time, Inc., observed that “Business, more
than any other occupation, is a continual dealing with the future;
it is a continual calculation, an instinctive exercise in
the future takes form, the visionary leader can see, feel, hear
and even sometimes can touch or taste what it’s like to “walk
around” in this state. As
more and more imaginative data enters his consciousness, the
future finally coalesces into an articulate vision of the way
things could be. Gates’
vision of a computer on every desk, Kennedy’s “man on the
moon, King’s heterogeneous march of equality, even Disney’s
mouse are examples of this kind of imaginative effort.
vision becomes quite seductive for the creator, pulling him
inexorably towards its realization.
Leonard Bernstein even characterized the visionary in music
as “portraying the whispering promise of things to come.”
To the outsider, the visionary appears to be detached from
what’s going on around him.
He may sometimes appear insensitive to the concerns of
other people in the organization, as they go about resolving the
day-to-day problems that are an inherent part of any complex
seeming insensitivity doesn’t indicate a lack of caring.
Quite the opposite, he is spending more and more time in
his future, which he
fully expects will be the present for everyone else—eventually.
obsession is important, for it continuously motivates him as he
tries to bring everyone else in to share in its ultimate benefits. His attitude may be summed up quite well by E. F. F. Chandi,
the father of acoustical geometry:
“People have often asked me by what stroke of luck I came
to make certain discoveries, but luck never favored me.
To obtain success, I always had to employ
developed an internal vision, it now remains the task of the
artist/leader to communicate that vision.
For the artist, this is a matter of articulating it on
canvas, shaping the clay or carving the stone to capture the
elegance, using his skills and being limited to the materials of
business leader has an equally daunting task—there is a
significant gap between where he wants to be and where the
organization is now. Closing
this gap isn’t easy because, as Walter Bagehot, the 19th
century critic noted, “One of the greatest pains of human nature
is the pain of a new idea.” Artists and leaders often make others uncomfortable because
they do nothing less that ask people to move forward and
jeopardize some very hard-won equity in the status quo.
The leader’s executive group whose task it will be to
spearhead this movement to the future have a personal stake in
resisting the journey. They
have risen to their positions of power by behaving according to a
set of norms, and these have served them well in creating a secure
comfortable position in the organization.
The leader’s creative work then is to overcome the
inertia that this security has engendered and create a new hunger
for change that the successful execution of his vision will feed.
His ability to do this is determined in large part by both
the beauty and truth of the new reality he sees.
successfully communicate this vision in a way that stirs the
emotion and awakens a pioneering spirit in his constituents, the
visionary’s picture must contain two major components:
must provide a clear and unambiguous place for everyone involved
in its execution. They
must be able to see themselves in the picture.
As much as verbal language is touted as the power of magic,
it is visual language that creates the clarity needed for
acceptance of a new idea. Seeing
is believing. People
have faith in the leader’s vision because they believe something
that doesn’t yet exist. The
vision must be visual!
must be a treasure map, providing a well-marked path to the
path will provide the insurance that allows everyone to leave
their comfort zone, and move in the indicated direction.
Henri Matisse observed, “I don’t paint things.
I paint only the difference between things.”
The vision as a map provides the illumination that allows
for detours when obstacles are encountered.
It becomes a source of creative problem solving as well as
offering clear criteria for decision making.
the vision fills these criteria, the desired future will
inevitably take place.