19 Jan The Future Of Leadership Development Is An Artist Studio
Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) President John Maeda believes that art and design will transform the economy in the 21st century the way science and technology did in the last century.
I agree, and we need creative leaders—inspired by those principles—to usher in the revolution.
Referencing Dr. Patricia Brennan’s work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he describes four levels of creative leadership:
- Reflex. The instinctive reaction to external stimulus
- Problem-solving. ‘Street smarts’ constrained by reality
- Creativity. Combining two ideas to solve a bounded problem
- Imagination. Completely unconstrained creativity
Most business leaders react to problems without thinking or search for a solution that has worked in a similar situation. Maeda has reflected extensively on what business leaders can learn from artists and designers. Here are three of my favorite insights:
1. Don’t distinguish between making and thinking. They evolve together in an emergent, concurrent fashion such that artists often don’t plan projects in advance.
2. Ask, “How am I doing?” Critique is an opportunity for artists and designers to see if others intuitively grasp the intentions of their work.
3. Collaborate. Artists learn in a studio where they spend hours together in intimate self-expression.
Maeda strives to balance the experimental artist with the systematic thinker trained at engineering and business school.
He predicts that in the future, art-school grads “may not make art or objects, but instead make or remake organizations…by analyzing and understanding systems of people and how they connect as human beings rather than by corporate titles or rank.”
The future of leadership development is not a classroom removed from the real world. It’s a studio-type setting where practitioners help each other solve their problems.
Startup CEOs, in particular, can benefit from this kind of instruction. It’s a natural complement to their company building efforts.
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