web analytics

What Difference Can Artists Make to a Business?

Power of culture – how to inject culture into business strategy from Arts & Business on Vimeo.

Supposing you sent a group of artists, actors, musicians and poets into a corporate business – on a mission to entertain, provoke, inspire, teach and challenge people to experiment with new ways of thinking, acting and communicating.

How would the staff respond?

What difference would it make to the individuals who took part?

What impact would it have on teams and departments?

How would it affect the organisational culture?

Could you measure an impact on the bottom line?

These are some of the questions that went into a research project on Using the Arts in Business that I was pleased to manage for Arts & Business over a period of 18 months. I worked closely with Simon Cronshaw, who was then head of Research, Evaluation and Information, and the research was conducted by Professor Giovanni Schiuma, an expert in organisational culture and change who is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Cranfield School of Management.

The research had a solid academic foundation, but was certainly not restricted to theory — we spent a lot of time in the company of artists who work with large corporations in exactly the way I’ve outlined above. They lead workshops, interactive drama productions, training events and even major organisational change programmes. Their work falls under the heading of arts-based initiatives, and is a fascinating cross-fertilisation of creative and commercial cultures.

We were also fortunate enough to speak to senior managers from organisations who had commissioned arts-based initiatives, and were keen to discuss the benefits to their business.

Some of the research findings have just been published in the form of a report which you can download from the arts and business website: Mapping Arts-Based Initiatives by Giovanni Schiuma. You can also watch a video of Giovanni presenting the research findings.

If you visit the Arts & Business website, you can listen to a series of interviews with the arts-based practitioners who took part — including two interviews I recorded myself.

The first interview was with Tom Conway, Managing Director of the market research agency Spinach, and Martin Gent, an artist and actor who is Director of Creativity at Spinach. The two have been working together for several years, in a very unusual arrangement whereby an artistic practitioner works at the heart of an organisation, not as a consultant or visitor. Interview explores the dynamics of their working relationship, and what each has learned, as well as the business benefits to Spinach.

The second interview was with Sam Bond of tradesecrets, where he discussed his extensive experience of delivering arts-based interventions across a range of organisational settings. Sam is a lovely guy, with an engaging and dynamic presence; he’s one of the few people I’ve met who seems equally comfortable and authoritative when discussing fine art or corporate culture.

Thanks to Sam, Tom and Martin for their generous help, as well as to the other arts practitioners and organisations who took part — do check out their websites, they feature stories, images and videos that paint a vivid picture of this fascinating area of creative business.

Sam Bond and Aidan Elliot, tradesecrets

Paul Bourne, Menagerie Theatre Company

Duncan Bruce, The Brand Conspiracy

Geoff Church, Dramatic Resources

Peter Feroze, The Creative Knowledge Company

Martin Gent, Spinach and The Map Consortium

Richard Hahlo, Dramatic Resources

Chris Higgins, The Map Consortium

Martin Holme, Spider and Givaudin

Piers Ibbotson, Directing Creativity

Tom Morley, Instant Teamwork

Tim Stockil, CI: Creative Intelligence

I hope you enjoy the interviews — and feel free to download and share the research report, which contains a new model of interventions and organisational change which I believe will be valuable to any company looking to do things differently.

Many thanks to Arts & Business for inviting me to manage the project, and to the organisations who shared their experiences and learnings. And special thanks to Simon and Giovanni for being such good fun to work with.

Comments

  1. thanks Mark! I love, love, love seeing organizations like Spinach and Arts & Business. I’m so very excited that you get to work with these kinds of companies, and it makes me wish I was in the UK a little bit.

  2. Thanks Cory, yes it was a privilege to work with such great people.

    If it makes you feel any better, the weather’s terrible. 🙂

  3. Karinne says:

    Actually, the weather is clearing up 😉

    Thanks for the roundup of the project, the list of interviews and the link to the report- it looks incredibly robust and worthwhile. I will be forwarding it to some former colleagues at Sydney University’s Arts Faculty who may be quite interested, as well as using it to consider the direction my own professional life is heading.

  4. This is very exciting stuff and I’m glad I “happened” upon it through a twitter link. As a creative myself with an entrepreneurial spirit, I’m discovering and exploring how to generate passive income without “selling my soul” in the process.

    I look forward to more of your thoughts on this Mark … Thanks for sharing.

  5. Thanks Karinne, really appreciate you spreading the word.

    Michael: “I’m discovering and exploring how to generate passive income without “selling my soul” in the process.”

    Ah yes, the eternal question! 🙂

    You might find this article I just published on The 99 Percent useful in that respect: Build a Business, Not Just a Client List.

  6. This was a great sum up of the kinds of things we have been talking about as an artist run company for artists here in Los Angeles. Our company is called “Getting Your Sh*t Together” Or GYST Ink, if you can’t say the title. We provide support services for artists and champion information and knowledge for artists as a way of defining a career on their own terms.

    We have software for artists, as well as publications and a professional practices blog. We are going to create a link to this article and video as it is a great summation of the influence of art and culture and the things it can bring to the table.

    Thanks so much for posting this, doing the research and giving us creatives a little bit of hope!

    Keep up the good work, and thanks so much for the post!

Trackbacks

  1. […] – one of my very favorite bloggers, Mark McGuinness writes about the UK based organization, Arts and Business. I only wish this agency had a US chapter – I would so be the captain. Art has a huge […]

  2. […] Mark McGuinness on getting down to business What if you sent a group of artists, actors, musicians and poets into a corporate business? Say their mission is to entertain, provoke, inspire, teach and challenge people to experiment with new ways of thinking, acting and communicating. How would the staff respond? What difference would it make to the individuals who took part? And would it have an effect on the bottom line? You might be surprised. […]