Inspiration and Innovation: Learning From Artists

This article appeared in Wired Innovation Insights.

The crowd at an IT event in Paris was intrigued to see an art historian as the keynote speaker opening the conference. They had come to hear their peers talk about trendy topics in Big Data, Search, Content Analytics, Natural Language processing, etc. But the first thing they were asked to do was contemplate a painting by Veronese . Then, art historian Stéphane Coviaux showed them a drawing that looked like a sketch the artist made before embarking on the big painting. Yet the “sketch” had been created by a different artist some 50 years earlier! Veronese a plagiary?!

When asked to compare the two works, the IT audience was not shy and came up with many major and minor differences. It became clear to everyone that Veronese had been inspired by the work of his predecessor. Through his changes in the conception of the image, in his use of space and color and through his own symbolic, Veronese had produced a major work of art from a comparatively minor source of inspiration.

The message to the audience: do not expect cooking recipes or “best practices”! Transpose what you see from others – the innovations they have implemented – into your own environment. And, don’t be overawed by impressive projects that you may see, view them as sketches for your own projects and “go create!”

In an emerging market or one that is radically changing, there simply are no “best practices” and no “recipes.” Take inspiration from others but use your imagination to create innovations that advance your business. A specific message for the modern times IT-audience was added: Aim at “co-creation”; find partners you trust to help you along in the creation process and accompany you in uncharted (or not completely charted) territory. In uncharted territory, your procurement services cannot take a standard contract out of a drawer and hope it fits.

The “distance” between the artistic and the business environments worked well to get the message across. The presentation of even an exemplary business project coupled with the injunction “be inspired! Do not copy, but transpose,” would certainly have provoked reactions like “fine but not applicable in my environment.” In the distant world of art, everyone could easily agree on the necessity of inspiration to create innovation, took this lesson home to apply to their enterprises.

Xavier Pornain – VP of Sales & Alliances for Sinequa.

 

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