Strategic thinking applied to an artistic career….

In my strange mix of work life and painting life I have had the opportunity to hear form some incredible business thinkers. While delivering development training to creative start ups and large cultural orgs I have been lucky enough to see the effect of some incredible ideas and tools being shared with groups.

I have many times used my own career as a place to experiment with these ideas to see what works. I test the thinking. Now I am by no means the finished article at this but I have definitely seen huge progress after years of being static or going round in circles.

Lots of these ideas have come via Dr Andrew Bass of Bass Clusker Consulting. I cant recommend his work highly enough! Andy has shared with me some of the best models in business and strategic thinking.

I spend time with some brilliantly creative and curious people. People who are almost addicted to learning and finding more efficiency or effectiveness. To learning from the best creative thinkers and trying out these ideas.

The most noticeable result of having these models to play with is that I spend less time than I used to feeling helpless.

I have noticed that creatives embarking on a journey starting a business or growing a freelance practice get “stuck” in a loop. With limited ways of approaching a problem or even without the insight to spot the repetition or blockage.

This always strikes me as interesting. The notion that people who are often educated in creative thinking are unable to manoeuvre through the obstacles that their endeavour throws up for them.

This happens to me a lot. Ask anyone of my friends just how stuck I get repeating the same pattern over and over! Applying some oblique thinking model can help to unblock me but often I find that it is a conversation with a mentor or peer that really helps,“ You can’t tickle yourself!” .

It is of course the case that a “stuck” business or organisation can benefit massively from the insights and thinking of creatives and artists. Who as outsiders are able to reflect back a different view of a situation. Im not sure that artists always realise the value that is inherent in the way they look at the world.

So whats going on here. I think it as about the friction that is created form difference. Along with the notion that you can’t ask a fish to describe the water. Applying thinking from a seemingly alien industry (the men in suits are aliens right?) simply allows you to come at your issue from a new perspective.

The same is true for businesses working with artists. When I work with businesses to help them with creative solutions or ideas my Art School thinking feels fresh and innovative.

The art world is interesting in terms of business/money/careers.(This is a huge can of worms that I don’t really want to get into) but we all know it is of course an industry powered by money and business in the same way that any other industry is and yet money or commerce becomes a dirty word. Artists often feel (rightly) that they will be judged harshly or perceived as less authentic or dirty and commercial! If they appear to be in anyway strategic in growing their market and building a career.

This is nonsense of course, the process of making work can and should remain an authentic exploration, while creating a sustainable practice in financial terms as well as any other measure is not only the key to survival but the key to more artistic freedom. Growing a business should not have to mean compromising ones vision but can incorporate a FULL practice of activity and income streams. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be an artist and as my good friend and colleague Helga Henry says “ maybe owning a home and running a used Volkswagen polo and going on a holiday for a couple of weeks a year” ( I know the owning a home thing depends where you live!)

I am now working as a mentor/coach/advisor with artists and early stage businesses and sharing these models and tools. I am already seeing incredible changes in feelings of empowerment and confidence. More importantly the sense that there is now some control in moving forward and it isn’t all down to blind luck.

I’m interested to know if you apply thinking from another sector or art form to your work to get unblocked?

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