In business, embrace critique, authenticity and sometimes furry rabbits. Elaine Grogan Luttrull reflects on what art can teach business after attending CCAD's New Business Night.
By Elaine Grogan Luttrull
All over Columbus, organizations are delivering business advice to creative entrepreneurs with the support of our business leaders. GCAC, Wild Goose Creative, the McConnell Arts Center, ROY G BIV, the Ohio Craft Museum, and of course the Columbus College of Art and Design and OSU's Barnett Center for Integrated Arts and Enterprise are all working to support the sustainability of creative enterprises.
But as I watched entrepreneurial students from CCAD pitch their business ideas at the inaugural New Business Night event with SunDown RunDown, it dawned on me that the learning can go in both directions. Artists and designers have a few lessons of their own to share with the business community.
1. Embrace critique.
No one has more practice at the critique process than someone who has been to art or design school. In fact, the critique process is considered a signature pedagogical tool in art and design, much like case studies are a signature pedagogical tool of business school. Critiques happen on a regular basis, especially before a project is finished.
Artists and designers are incredibly well-versed in responding to critiques, filtering the data for helpful information, and incorporating feedback into their work. They explain and defend their work by placing it within contemporary and historical contexts and articulating the supporting research for positions they take.
The critique process evokes lessons in humility, respect for experience, and the ability to defend one's choices-not to mention the ability to detach oneself from one's work. In all, the process elevates skills.
2. Communicate creatively.
The work of artists and designers conveys information. There is an entire thought process that goes into a creative output beyond "it looks pretty." Very deliberate choices are made to evoke certain responses and communicate certain messages.
Artists and designers-creative entrepreneurs in general-are very good at communicating in unexpected, creative ways. Given the shortening attention span of many customers, business leaders could learn a thing or two about communicating creatively from "creatives." (Hint: It goes way beyond an infographic.)
3. Broaden motivations.
Some of the most brilliant people work in creative fields, and what make them especially brilliant are their abilities to empathize with clients, end users, employees and supervisors. Due to the collaborative critique process that artists and designers follow, they are more willing to listen-really listen-to others' points of view.
And a growing band of customers are doing this too.
Choosing to be motivated by more than money is empowering. Success can then be defined in creative ways that go beyond dollars and cents.
4. Master authenticity.
Creative entrepreneurs are professionals, but often they define "professionalism" differently than counterparts in the business world. In a traditional business sense, "professionalism" may denote a type of dress, a manner of speaking, or a line between personal views and taboo topics for discussion. In its worst manifestation, it may include a "fake it 'til you make it" mantra that masks insecurity with bravado.
But in the creative world, professionalism takes root in respect. That respect may not always be expressed through clothing choices (consider Mark Zuckerberg's hoodie, for example), and creative entrepreneurs tend to be more willing to share their authentic selves in a respectful way.
That authenticity resonates with those in the business community as much as it does in the creative community.
5. Soften up.
Dogs, cats, bunnies, and babies can make a workplace (and those within it) welcoming and accessible-sometimes at the expense of professionalism. For many creative businesses, though, the perceived drop in professionalism is worth it due to the benefits from reduced stress, additional exercise, regularly scheduled breaks, and a boost in morale. (WebMD, NPR, USA Today, and Inc. have all covered this idea extensively.)
One group of students who presented at New Business Night took this idea to heart. Their concept, Twin Tails Pet Rental, highlighted short-term pet rentals for schools, nursing homes, hospitals, and individuals who aren't able to commit to pet ownership, and to sell their idea effectively, they brought a prop: Penny Loafer the Bunny. For the duration of the event, Penny Loafer hopped around, underscoring the inherent community demand for the group's business idea in real time and serving as a conversation starter with students, professors, investors, and guests.
Junior interior design major, Olivia Dawson, with Penny Loafer at CCAD's New Business Night.
As business leaders continue to work longer hours, do more with less and juggle a variety of personal and professional commitments, the idea of embracing something furry to reduce stress and soften the tone of work is compelling.
Elaine Grogan Luttrull, CPA, is the founder of Minerva Financial Arts, a company devoted to increasing business and financial literacy among artists and arts organizations. She is also the department head for business & entrepreneurship at the Columbus College of Art & Design. Find her online. For more information about CCAD's Business & Entrepreneurship Department, email Elaine at firstname.lastname@example.org.