A collection of illustrations

For the past couple of months, I have been working on a major learning and development project; Art in Strategic Thinking. I’m now looking at the marketing side of things and decided to create my own illustrations; well I am a qualified illustrator. Here is a series of images I created to illustrate the principle artistic endeavours within the AiST program.

How might you benefit from another viewpoint?

Being a leader requires you to choose a particular view of your organisation.

When was the last time you considered your viewpoint or invited others to showcase theirs?

Using perspective enables you to choose the best vantage so that when you view the same data and information from different positions, a different picture will emerge. And what insights might become obscured?

How will you choose and secure the best position from which you and your team can view the most important insights for your strategic intent?

Perespective Poster A4 01

Is there another way to view your organisation?

When you look at a picture how do you classify the work? What you do is based on existing knowledge.

Is the way you see your organisation; your existing perceptual framework: appropriate? How do you know?

By engaging in creative endeavours your organisation can unleash the potential of your team and conceive new ideas.

Changing the way that something is perceived can develop reflective practice so that your organisation can embrace an uncertain future.

Classification Poster A4 01a

Art or Illustration

For as long as I can remember I have been a visual, creative individual. The most significant anchoring experience in my childhood was the exhibiting of my representation of a phrase from The Ancient Mariner; Like a painted ship upon a painted ocean. I was eight years old.

It seemed natural that I would go to art college and after a foundation year, experimenting with all manner of media, I majored in Technical Illustration.

Fast forward a few decades and a dilemma which had occasionally bothered me, emerged regarding the categorisation of two-dimensional visual creative disciplines and their resulting works (outputs); art or illustration.

Research into the meaning of the words and reading around the subject of aesthetics; including Art as Experience by John Dewey is challenging me to formulate a distinction between the two disciplines.

So far, my thinking is as follows:

Art is:

The self-directed act of an individual to express themselves and embody substance (tangible or intangible) in an aesthetic form.

Art is about unrestricted self-expression. The artist will create a work through the appropriate use of media in a form that will provide an aesthetic experience for the observer through one or more of the senses. The output of the work may be the representation of an actual scene or object in the case of landscape or still life. The output might also be a representation of a mood, emotion or other non-material expression such as love, growth, isolation. Subject to taste a work of art will induce a feeling within the observer; they may even experience wonder.

Illustration is:

The directed act of an individual to symbolise substance (tangible or intangible) in an agreeable form.

Illustration is about the fulfillment of a brief to represent the narrative of a commissioner. The output of the activity may be the accurate reproduction of an object or the abstract representation of a theme. The creator and the commissioner are not expecting to provide an aesthetic experience for the observer. The observer may or may not like the work but the objective is to convey the narrative only. Irrespective of taste an illustration will convey the narrative to the observer devoid of aesthetic intent.

The above two definitions and explanations are ‘works in progress’ as I dig deeper into the visual representation of substance (both tangible and intangible).

Question (rhetorical); is the following a ‘work of art’ or an ‘illustration’.

Is your organisation being blinded?

Is your organisation being blinded by too much data, information, and insights?

Without data, information, and insights you cannot plan. However, too much can pose a challenge.

Just like highlights blind an artist or photographer, the shadows may hide important shapes and texture.

What might be the consequences if you and your team filter out the most abundant and most obvious data?

Could you get a better picture of your organisation by shining a light towards the teams and departments that are less prevalent at expressing their ideas or suggestions?

AiST is a program that provides you and your team with an introduction to an additional way of thinking about your organisation that could enable you to outsmart your more conventional competitors.

Light and Shade Poster A4 01b

What colour is your organisation?

Colour is often used by artists to represent emotion and a mix of colours can change what is perceived.

Colour used within an organisational context is a valuable method of seeing a difference in people and teams.

All staff can provide your strategy team with data, information and or insights that have value when (what is perceived is) in line with the strategic objectives of your organisation.

How do you see yourself, your team or your organisation? And how can you be aware that your view is not ‘coloured’ by others?

AiST is a program that provides you and your team with an introduction to an additional way of thinking about your organisation that could enable you to outsmart your more conventional competitors.

Colour Poster A4 01b

I am today what I experienced yesterday.

Each of us assimilates into himself something of the values and meanings contained in past experience. But we do so in differing degrees and at differing levels of selfhood. Some things sink deep, others stay on the surface and are easily displaced. The old poets traditionally invoked the muse of Memory as something wholly outside themselves – outside their present conscious selves. The invocation is a tribute to the power of what is most deep-lying and therefore the furthest below consciousness, in determination of the present self and of what it has to say. It is not true that we “forget” or drop into unconsciousness only alien and disagreeable things. It is even more true that the things which we have most completely made a part of ourselves, that we have assimilated to compose our personality and not merely retained as incidents, cease to have a separate conscious existence. Some occasions, be it what it may, stirs the personality that has been thus formed. Then, comes the need for expression. What is expressed will be neither the past events that have exercised their shaping influence nor yet the literal existing occasion. It will be, in the degree of its spontaneity, an intimate union of the features of the present existence with the values that past experience have incorporated in personality. Immediacy and individuality, the traits that mark concrete existence, come from the present occasion; meaning, substance, content, from what is embedded in the self from the past.

Art as Experience. John Dewey, 2005. pp74.
John_Dewey
Art_as_Experience  This  entry in Wikipedia needs updating.

Art in Strategic Thinking Revisited.

Since I first posted about the program I am developing I have been involved in a lot of research, reading, analysis and development. As a result, I have revisited the original material I wrote on Art in Strategic Thinking and updated it as follows:

Introduction

“So what does participation and experience in the artistic endeavours bring to the development of strategic thinking? It has nothing to do with artistic talent per se; the aim is not to achieve fame and fortune as an artistic master but, rather, to develop the attributes and critical reflective processes necessary for strategic thinking. An arts experience ‘opens the doors of perception,’ as poet William Blake wrote in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.”
(Learning to Think Strategically. p233. Julia Sloan. 2006)

In order to open the doors of perception, I am suggesting an experiential learning program where participants are introduced to the concept that artistic endeavour and the aesthetic mind are as important as the scientific theories of leadership and management and the logic of rational thinking. Participants are invited to explore and undertake a variety of artistic endeavours and relate these activities as prompts, metaphors and tools for learning to think strategically.

Background

Since I was 8 years old I have held the belief that everyone (limiting physical and mental disabilities acknowledged) has a degree of artistic ability. However, within western society at least, this artistic ability becomes subservient to the scientific rationale of absolutism at the expense of a heuristic approach embedded within an aesthetic mindset. Put simply; it is my view that ‘Anyone can draw’ but the critics need to keep quiet.

In 2003 I happened upon ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’(2001), by Dr Betty Edwards which became the foundation for a personal development course; ‘Anyone can draw, the art of challenging self-limiting beliefs’. The course is not about developing techniques or skills; it is about implanting a notion that a participant may well be able to draw. When delivering this program, I was asked on a number of occasions whether the premise could be implemented in business. This set me on a journey to explore whether artistic endeavour could provide enlightenment within the rationalistic endeavour of managing and leading an organisation. In 2017 I finished formulating the principles of the business program ‘The Art in Strategic Thinking’ (AiST), and set about searching for and analysing any relevant material that might support the proposition. It turns out that the subject of aesthetics within the organisation is of mounting interest in today’s (2018) age of increasing uncertainty

In the past three or so decades there has been a growing movement looking at the relationship with and the implementation of aesthetics within management and organisation. From early material such as Degot’s ‘Portrait of the Manager as an Artist’ (1987) through John Dobson; The Art of Management and the Aesthetic Manager (1999), Strati’s; Organisation and Aesthetics (1999), on to Chytry’s ‘Organisational Aesthetics: The Artful Firm and the Aesthetic Moment in Organization and Management Theory (2008) and Groot, Weggeman and van Aken; Aesthetic Experiences of Professionals in Organisations, to name just a few, we have a body of works that explore and explain that the leadership and management of organisations is a whole lot more than the learning and implementation of rationalistic and scientific theories and models espoused by the traditional business school. Indeed the report on a study by Page et al (2008) at the UWE, cites the traditional approach to ‘higher’ learning as didactic and explores the emotional aspects of a student centred approach and learning from critical reflection on experience.

The material I have discovered and read; whilst not (explicitly) proving the principles of the program I have developed, the writings of Dr Betty Edwards and Julia Sloan, does lend credence to the idea that this sort of program has a place in leadership and management training by encouraging perception through the use of the visual sense. Again, the program is not an art course and does not attempt to teach technique. The program engages participants in creative thinking; activating the aesthetic mindset, by experiencing eight principles of artistic endeavour and applying these principles to strategic intent.

The eight artistic principles

Looking and seeing; the art of challenging limiting beliefs

A question of style; the different strategic objectives

Negative space and what isn’t there

Light and shade, the blindingly obvious and darkest recesses

Colour, where cold, calculating and warm, fuzzy have their place

Perspective and the changing power of detachment

The medium; a look at tools to create a strategic plan

Big picture and ignoring what isn’t needed

Outcomes

The program is conducted over two days and at the end participants will have:

  • engaged in producing an accurate piece of artistic endeavour as an exercise in challenging self-limiting beliefs
  • curated different styles of artistic endeavour in a number of different ways and related these to different types of strategic objective
  • demonstrated the ability to observe all elements of a scene and reported on the importance of accounting for what is not evident
  • enriched an image by adding tone and identified which dark recesses of an organisation might shed light on or assist in supporting strategic intent
  • described the relevance and impact of colour and documented the rich reserves of staff with different temperaments, behaviours, knowledge and skills
  • described different art medium and related these to the variety of analysis and planning instruments and tools available for different strategic objectives
  • identified how a different viewpoint changes what is observed and suggested how they might get a better view of their strategic direction
  • selected one or more elements of an image on which to focus and assembled or disassemble the scope of strategic intent

By actively engaging in the eight sessions participants will have added to their ability to think strategically. As strategists, they will have considered and practised a variety of creative and innovative endeavours. They will have been prompted to think differently. And as with any endeavour, whether aesthetic or logic, the seeding of the experience in their mindset is intended to prompt them to practice which will be the key to making the new way of thinking, the normal way of thinking strategically.