You know, it's absolutely normal, common and expected when having a discussion about artists, to talk about their internal world. Art, every form of art, comes from the inside. Artists are guided and driven by their internal vision, their emotions, their need to express or capture something. Often something that hasn't been expressed before or in this way.
This struck me as I was listening to our local jazz radio station talking about Miles Davis, the jazz legend. The radio host spoke specifically about how Davis was guided by his own internal artistic vision throughout his life. He was never content to rest on his laurels and make the same kind of music over and over again. He was driven to express from the inside out.
I got to thinking about business. I am a singer/songwriter. I left my first career as a teacher to take a shot at earning my living doing music full time. My husband and business partner is also a singer/songwriter and a very talented painter. We are creative and so it was only natural that when we co-founded a business consulting boutique, our approach would be a creative one, incorporating core business principles but helping clients learn to apply them in the way that best serves their beliefs, values, purpose and vision, their way, on their terms.
Leading a business, owning a business, really is a creative endeavour, especially in our topsy turvey, crazy world. If the world ever was stable and predictable, it sure as hell isn't now. The global pandemic has made it very, very clear that businesses and the people who lead and work in them have to tap into the creative core that is at the centre of every human, just to survive. To thrive going forward, we will have to stop being slaves to the science of business and continue to practise the art of business.
So why does "typical" business look so completely uncreative, cookie cutter and linear? Why are we so focused on trying to structure, measure and manage the creativity out of it? And why are there so many messages telling us the same thing - that we should look, sound and feel like every other business out there, while diligently pointing out our unique core differentiators? It make absolutely no sense whatsoever to me.
The really successful entrepreneurs and leaders I have had the honour of working with over the years are artists, in their own way. I can hear many of their voices in my head right now stating quite firmly that they are no such thing but that is because we typically define "artist" as someone who works in the creative arts.
Whether they own the business or are employees, truly exceptional leaders are guided and driven from the inside out. They have a vision for what could be, not just what is or is commonly accepted or is a bit of a stretch beyond industry norms. They are not content to rest on their laurels, take the "safe" route and keep doing the same-old, same-old, achieving plus or minus 10% of the previous year.
These leaders are guided and driven by their internal vision, their emotions, their need to express or capture something. Often something that hasn't been expressed before or in this way.
LIke the general manager of a commercial roofing company who is driven to disrupt the entire industry based on the way they treat people, especially their front-line workers. And by standing in their integrity, raising the standard instead of sinking to industry standard.
Or the leader of the transportation company who understands that actually what they are is a business partner, helping their clients grow and achieve their dreams. Deliveries and logistics are the vehicle, not the service.
Or the manufacturing leader whose focus is to provide strategic advice and support to clients, as they deliver the products they make. He truly believes that people, especially their operators, are the biggest asset and differentiator the company has, not the latest technology or the best lean practises (although he has those too).
The science of business is all outside in. We look outside of ourselves and our business to see what we should be doing, how success is defined and to find the existing path to get there.
The art of business starts on the inside. We start by getting really clear on who we really are, what we really believe, why we do what we do and then, we tap into that vision that is impelling us forward. From that inside stance, then we plan and execute. We measure and manage. We do marketing and sales activities and we deliver our product or service. Rather than looking for an exisiting path, we create our own.
The more we align how we do what we do with who we authentically are, the more likely we are to be successful. It's messier. It's not a straight line. It isn't predictable and you probably can't "prove" it's going to work because you or others have done it that way a bunch of times before. You're going to have to be vulnerable and real. You will definitely get emotional. You're going to fail.
It's easy to say, "Just be authentic" or "Just be you". It's sometimes very difficult to put those gut feelings and what we just know into words so others can see and feel what we're trying to do. And lots of times, we don't actually know who we are or what "authentic" actually means to us.
Which is not a problem if we're solopreneurs. But if you want to grow your business or you lead a team, it's critically important that you're able to share your values, purpose, vision, plans - your dream - with those helping you to manifest it in the world. We need this clarity so we can make it really clear how our team needs to be as we do what we do. Behavioural processes are more important than even work processes. This likely won't happen on it's own.
So build time into your week to reflect, imagine and dream. I strongly recommend you start keeping some kind of journal to capture ideas and inspiration and most importantly, to get really clear and honest about your internal world. This is even more important if you've never spent any time listening to the voices in your head (which are often really nasty and negative) or paid any attention to your feelings.
If you'd like some help with this, we have tools and resources that can speed up this journey for you. The Mechanics of FLOW2 has modules to help you build your business from the inside out, your way on your terms. And at Flow Network, we have lots of resources to help you dig into who you are and a ton of video exploring the significant shift we are living through.
The art of business starts on the inside. We start by getting really clear on who we really are, what we really beleve, why we do what we do and then, we tap into that vision that is impelling us forward. From that inside stance, then we plan and execute. We measure and manage. We do marketing and sales activities and we deliver our product or service. Rather than looking for an exisiting path, we create our own.
Keep shining! The world needs all the light it can get.