Before we even start this bog post, let’s banish that voice in your head that tells you you’re no good at art. I will remind you that you were good at making art when you were little therefore, you still are. Your artistic abilities are still there. Let’s quickly get past this negative assumption by considering what some may deem one of the least “artistic” lines of work–an accountant. As business owners, we rely on accountants to use a rigid set of rules and expectations to monitor, enumerate, and quantify. Creativity with the numbers is discouraged as is experimenting. But, all accountants will eventually run across an anomaly that must be explained then rectified. How could they deal with that? They might apply the same thinking processes that artists, including me, use to create a drawing, a piece of pottery, a weaving or sculpture, the thinking processes that you can easily apply to building then growing your business and effectively solving snags along the way that prevent success. Let’s discover how!
Step 1 Identify and Define the Problem
Although they may not look like they’re doing it, even kids constantly define problems while creating. “Do I want to use a different color? Does this make sense to me? What comes next?” You made these decisions while you were creating as a kid too. You made them naturally, instinctively. Artists ask themselves the same questions. This is not a mystical process. All artists do when they compose a work of art is identify, define, then solve problems. Once they are inspired to create, they define what they need to do to solve the problem (the work of art). “What do I want to say? What materials do I need? What technique should I use to form this artwork? What the artist may be doing that you’ve forgotten you knew how to do, is to think more deeply, more freely about what the problem is.
Artist take time to reflect, to be open to ideas they hadn’t thought of before to create relationships in their minds between information, directions to go in, routes and methodologies.
You might ask yourself or your team, “What’s really bothering me about my business? Why is it bothering me? What is at the root of this problem? What are the signs that something is going wrong? Who is involved in this problem and how? What information do I have about this problem? How can I use this information to sort out what’s going wrong? Are there multiple layers to this problem and if so, how can they be defined? Note: When I am engaged in answering questions about my business or I just want to order my thoughts, I usually draw a mind map. There are great tutorials on this process on YouTube such as this one on the basics. You can also use apps to do it such as Lucidchart.
Step 2 Apply the Skills and Knowledge You Have to Create a Solution
Once an artist has identified the idea that will be their goal, (the problem they are solving), they then apply the knowledge and skills they have learned to arrive at the goal. For example, I think of a particular garment shape that I want to design. I then use my knowledge of pattern drafting and apparel construction to create a pattern for it and choose materials that I know will give me the desired effect. During the construction of the garment, I may alter the shape as my design thought dictates. As I interact with the materials during the process of problem solving, I allow myself to be open to what I am experiencing. I allow the materials and the process to educate me on solutions for the problem that I might not have thought of at the beginning of the process.
You have a vision for your business. You have skills which you may use to bring your business to life or to amend it as you see problems arising. You seek out knowledge or skills which you realize that you lack. While you are solving the problem, perhaps finding new opportunities in your market, be open to allowing the process to bring forth other options which you or you team had not considered at the outset.
Step 3 Evaluate the Results
Many artists are asked this question, “how do you know when you’re done?” Some artists may never consider their artworks to be “done.” I never deliver a customer’s garment or home decor item unless it’s done but I will sometimes wear or use pieces I have made for myself that I feel could use another stitch here or another layer of beading there. Sometimes work is done because my twenty plus years of sewn production experience tells me so. Sometimes a piece for me is done simply because I have to move on to something else. Most artists carefully consider how their finished work meets the goal they set for themselves.
Artists will reflect on concepts they learned along the way, inspiration they have developed for their next work or, perhaps, what failures set them back and why.
Entrepreneurs like you and I know that a contract may be completed then evaluated, but our businesses are never “done.” We are constantly developing and transforming to improve. We know that a business must adapt and grow, all the while being evaluated and reevaluated for effectiveness at meeting goals. Even goals are modified as the customer’s needs or market forces change.
So, as you can see, employing your inner artist to create solutions for your business is not as far fetched as you thought. I do it everyday and so can you. You may already be doing it! I would love to hear how you employ the processes of an artist in your business.
Mary Ruth, Owner of United Sewing and Design has over 30 years experience in the manufacturing of products by sewing and is author of “Industry Sewing Construction Methods” http://amzn.to/2yMxMmk. Her focus is on design, entrepreneurship; social enterprise; the connections between the environment, the apparel industry, and manufacturing; and how owners can leverage artistic methods to benefit their business.