Business and art – never the twain shall meet …

Last wednesday was leapday. For me and a group of adventurous businesspeople, it was #Leapday.

Organised by Doug Shaw, the day was set up as an opportunity to try something new.  The brief was simply to bring your curiosity and an open mind.

We usually tend to operate in silos and it strikes me that we are the poorer for it. There’s a perception that if you are an accountant, a lawyer, a businessman – you can’t also be an artist. And conversely, if you make your living in a creative pursuit, well naturally you can’t possibly be any good at management or leadership. We seem to be surprised that someone like Madonna is both a singer and a talented businesswoman. We remember Winston Churchill lead Britain through the Second World War, but forget that he was also a talented artist,

If you believe the theory that exercising both hemispheres of the brain leads to better cognitive function, then business should be fostering creativity in their staff as much as possible.

#Leapday was an experience of  breaking down the silo thinking, and getting business and art to converge and meld.

The setting was unusual – a group of tables at the back of a health food shop in South London. We started with a bit of poetry to set the scene.

Then had a chance to do a sketching exercise. This was followed by a minute of question-based coaching on the subject of he sketch, after which we sketched for a further 2 minutes. It was remarkable how much difference the minute of coaching made to our drawings.

Finally, we opened up the watercolour boxes and I spent some time talking about some basic techniques, and then everyone had a go at painting. For some this was the first time they had painted. I suspect that for everyone, it was the first time they had painted in a health food shop with a group of other business people.

At lunch time, a charming gentleman in a wheelchair joined us at out table to eat his lunch. Before he left, we’d discovered that he was an accomplished watercolour painter and he had sketched a small oyster catcher with some watercolour pencils.

By the end of the day everyone had explored colour, the mix of pigment and water on paper,  painted a grape, and most had tried their hand at a small landscape.  The conversation naturally turned to the question of how business and art could work better together. Hopefully, those of us who experienced #Leapday will keep on looking for ways to make that happen.

Here are a few blog posts from our #LeapDay event:

David’s thoughts on The Art of Business

David’s landscape

Doug’s post about his Leapday output

The Anonymous Artist

Doug Shaw’s Aspects of Spring

(If you were at #LeapDay and you posted something about it, please let me know and I’ll add the link to the list).

Where science meets art

One of the major attractions of living in Cambridge, is the number of fascinating juxtapositions you encounter.

It is a city that attracts residents from all corners of the world, all here with a common ideal – knowledge: the pursuit of it and the imparting of it.

It is a city with a pervasive atmosphere of innovation. And also one of venerable tradition and history. In this city, the birth of new ideas is accepted as the norm – but each new idea still buzzes with excitement.

It is worldly wise, and at the same time, a little insular. You meet people with huge intellect, who are almost incapable of buying a postage stamp but will discuss complex physics with authority.  I love this city.

It has Science Week which I’ve heard described as one of the best science festivals in the world. It has Wordfest, now 10 years old, and although small, one of the festivals that attracts authors from all over the country. It has Cambridge Open Studios: four weekends in which to visit artists in their studios all over the city. Each of these is an opportunity to immerse yourself in a specific aspect of the arts or science. But none of them is specifically devoted to fostering connections between these areas of expertise, culture and innovation.

With all these wonderful connections and contradictions in one place, Cambridge is just the perfect place for a TEDx event.   So we’ve put together TEDxGranta:Alive & Kicking – “A celebration of restless innovation in the arts and sciences. Of survivors and creators. And of people who kick back against established ways of thinking.”

Just look at the great list of speakers. We’ll cover design, business, social enterprise, psychology, music, film-making, engineering and more. We’re even having a blindfold kung fu exhibition.  And that’s just on the stage. The delegate list is just as interesting.

We’ve still got a lot to do – and with only 2 weeks to the event, we’re in high-activity mode. I’m really looking forward to it – the buzz will be brilliant.