Business as an Art Form?

During these extremely uncertain times, I believe that the most useful way to exorcise the pain of computer-based life is through trying something new. For this exact reason, when it came time to choose my first of three specialisations during my two-year Masters in Management, I chose Impact Entrepreneurship. 

There were so many choices – 58 in all – but I chose this one since it was the most “on-point” topic: there’s no time like the present for young generations to strive to have an impact, right? 

According to the course description, “More than ever, today’s entrepreneurs are striving to build businesses that make an impact in the world. Impact entrepreneurs are driven by a desire to disrupt the status quo. They are not just selling, they are solving problems.”

Two weeks into the course, now that I have a better understanding of the term “impact” (I don’t know about you, but I didn’t really grasp the concept before as it relates to the business world), I am now able to define what it means and (hopefully) by the end of the course I’ll be able to create it. 

In a nutshell, the concept of impact in business: Businesses today need to be sensitive to the fast-changing environment and look carefully at the complex needs customers have, in order to have a social impact and transform society.

Idea creation

I have always wondered how those clever entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs come up with dazzling ideas, bringing true innovation to the market and leaving everybody with their mouths hanging open, saying “WOW, this is so cool!”.

Searching for and getting new ideas is not an easy process. It’s relatively easy to understand a difficult formula or procedure: it might be tough at first to understand the technicalities, but you can see where it’s headed.  However, when we deal with innovation and reflection, it’s way more difficult: there is no ending point, no formal set of rules to follow, and most of the time your ideas go directly in the bin. 

I chose to attend this exciting specialisation in Turin as I was looking forward to co-creating the course, and digging deeper into the human mind to unlock what truly moves people, hoping that this would lead to the development of creative and innovative ideas.

An “Improbable” workshop

With these ideas in mind, we kicked-off this specialisation with a really “Improbable” workshop run by ESCP Professor Sylvain Bureau and Artist Pierre Tectin on the Art Thinking Method that they created in 2018. 

You read it correctly: Art. During the second semester of my business masters

At the beginning of the workshop, I thought that art was going to be used to demonstrate theoretically how new ideas are created and honed, or how the artistic process could be used in business.

The reality? By the end of the three days, we had to create a piece of art, on view for all in an online art exhibition. All of this with no physical interaction and only our laptops to guide us.

Panic. 

My first thought was to change specialisations and try something more classic such as marketing or consulting. I ended up staying with it because I really wanted to challenge myself in another way, by breaking away from a more typical class, to try to push my imagination a bit further. 

Build it up then tear it down

On Day 1, after we were, I realised that not one of us had an artistic bone in our bodies.

This was a real challenge. Not only were we facing something “improbable” for our academic career, we also had to deal with the inability to meet each other in person, and we had to figure out a way to develop our project in a non-traditional way by adapting ourselves and the artwork to the current situation. 

Art Thinking Method

We were given a topic, then had to develop a real work of art by using the Art Thinking process. In a nutshell, once you have what you think is a great idea and start developing it, you have  to destroy it to create a new and better one. This might sound frustrating (and it was), but it was also one of the most satisfying challenges I’ve ever put myself through.

Each group was given a different topic, and ours was food. With this broad subject, we had to find a real-life issue related to it and develop a work that would be an answer to the issue raised. Food as an art form.

At the end of the three days, every one of us was truly pleased with their work, even though we never thought we would have been able to create a work of art, especially in this particular situation.

Our work of art

As has already happened in previous situations in and out of my studies, I am learning that the most important thing is collaboration: even when you don’t have the technical expertise to do something, if you leverage each other’s ideas, there is always a way to find a solution. I also learned that often, the greatest ideas come from the process of destroying and unlearning. We need to learn to be more courageous and willing to challenge our ideas and not take them for granted.

Art is everywhere, and just like in business, during the creative process we need to be courageous enough to question our questions, destroy our beliefs and challenge our thinking. If we are able to find the link between the process of creating a work of Art and of creating a Business, we will unlock many opportunities for innovation and growth. 

Check out our art exhibition! Improbable, an Art Thinking Workshop

Find out more on entrepreneurship initiatives at ESCP Business School: Jean-Baptiste Say Institute

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