Corporate creativity doesn’t just happen. You can’t simply hire it or legislate it. Building a culture of innovation is more akin to building a rose garden than an office or a factory. It needs to be thoughtfully planted, nourished and given lots of love.
Just walk in to the headquarters of Progressive Insurance and you will see Andy Warhol’s infamous Mao Tse Tung portraits. Progress through the building and you will be aroused (consciously or subconsciously) by one of the most provocative art collections in the world. Insurance is a left-brain actuarial science. What does art have to do with selling boring old insurance? “Everything — if you intend to reinvent the way people buy insurance” said visionary Progressive CEO, Glenn Renwick. I remember Glenn saying to me “If McDonald’s can teach people to bus their own tables, we should be able to teach people the benefits of buying insurance direct from someone who does all the homework for them. Or a claims agent who shows up at the scene of an accident before the cops do, cutting a check on the spot.” This kind of product innovation doesn’t come out of a purely left-brain culture. Intellectual curiosity. A collision of art and science. A creative culture that changed the way Americans buy insurance. Not so boring, huh?
Why would entrepreneurial star, Howard Tullman, fill a college (Tribeca Flashpoint Academy) with one of America’s most stunning collections of modern art? Does he just like expensive décor or is it a very purposeful strategic move to stimulate the imaginations of the next generation of digital storytellers? I can say with first hand knowledge, it’s the latter.
What about Frank Gehry’s “Binoculars” building for Chiat/Day? Or Steve Jobs essentially art directing the town of Cupertino? It’s all about feeding a culture of creativity, nurturing a garden of innovation.
In the first ever course on Corporate Creativity at Harvard, Dorothy Barton Leonard and John Kao proclaimed that the world’s most innovative organizations are imbued with artfully stimulating signs of play. These serve as right brain creative stimulation to shake, or even shock, people from their left-brain logical neat and tidy tendencies bringing more creative curiosity to everything they do. Or to quote Hal Riney, “so they act more like human beings.”
I’d love to hear what you think of our new, Leonardo Nierman sculpture. It’s called “Humanism” from the Zygman Voss Gallery and it represents a collision of humanity and technology. Just like our company. Just like our world today. Feed me, Seymour.
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