Seth Godin has recently written a book about becoming an artist and why it’s important for your well being. I agree. Art is where you create extra value in your company.
I’ve been involved with many companies where there are great managers. Most of these managers are wonderful technicians. They keep the trains running, and develop and put systems together that make the company predictable for both employees and customers. I believe that in today’s world we need to go past being a technician. Here are some reasons why:
Artists are what make your company memorable.
Artists do the unexpected. They are able to see around the corner and look where others can’t or won’t see. Artists will ask questions that others don’t ask. Artists don’t often mind bending the rules to get an interesting outcome.
One of the problems we have with American businesses is that they often all look and sound the same. If you’re in the financial services business you talk about putting the customer first. If you’re in the restaurant business you want to build a “memorable experience.” This just doesn’t cut it. Your customers can’t tell what makes you different.
Artists bring “special sauce” to the game.
Artists don’t think about things in a “normal” way. I find that many artists are older. They’ve been around the block a few times. They look at the world with a little more wisdom than younger managers and owners.
When an artist has had time to think about and experiment in their industry they likely are masters at what they do. They’ve gotten to the point of being unconsciously competent. This is where the artist has learned their craft and performs at a level where they don’t have to think about what they’re doing.
Technicians need rules.
On the other hand, technicians need rules. They don’t like to improvise. They don’t like to make it up as it happens. When asked to do so they often will freeze.
Most of the world is technicians. If you own a company and you’re an artist you need to remember that most of the people in your company need a manual for what to do. This is why Disney scripts what their cast members do. It’s why in my vending company the more I reduced choice with my route drivers the happier they were.
What about you, have you made it easier for the technicians in your company to perform at an extraordinary level?
What makes an artist different?
I think artists by their nature are generalists. Although they might have an area or two where they have deep knowledge, what sets them apart is their love of the big picture. Most of the time the artist has a wide variety of interests and is a very curious person. The artist will read and think on a wide variety of subjects. You never know what an artist is going to come up with and you never know what part of their knowledge base a solution will come from.
The artist often brings the magic sauce. The artist will notice things that others miss. It’s not because they’re smarter, it’s because they just think differently about the world.
How do you become an artist?
An artist has spent their lifetime honing their craft. They are by nature very curious about the world. They often will read voraciously and widely. They will want to hear opinions that are ones outside their own. They will engage with you on a variety of topics. They can be great listeners and at the same time often come across as being only interested in their own opinion.
If you want to become an artist you have to ask questions about the world around you. A favorite question might be, “What would happen if?” The status quo doesn’t apply to you. You want to consider options that others might not have considered. You’ll often bring solutions to problems from areas not often thought of when solving particular problems.
The key with being an artist is how you think. If you need linear thought, being an artist will be difficult. If connecting dots from different sectors is your thing, then you just might be on your way.
I think great companies need both artists and technicians. Both need to respect each other and both need to value what each brings to the party. What about you? Do you think there’s a place for artists in your company?
Part of getting artists and technicians that you need in your company is having a great hiring system. I invite you participate in our hiring survey. In eleven short questions you can find out areas in your hiring process you might want to improve. To participate in our survey, click on the button below.