Editors' Cuts

Adopting Tenets of Art to Tackle the Business/IT Challenge

Pat Speer
Insurance Experts' Forum, January 9, 2013

There are plenty of articles on the age-old problem of aligning insurance business and IT. We tend to process the same tired information—stereotyping each side as obstinate or demanding or unrealistic.

And although information flows are usually designed to help business and IT teams better communicate, we tend to face the same issues over and over. So it was with great relief that I happened across an entry on the Management Information Mix that at first glance had little to do with business and IT alignment, and more to do with art and science.

Written by Tim Leberecht, chief marketing officer of global design and innovation firm frog, the article, “What Innovators can Learn from Artists,” compares the tenets typically held by artists to those held by business leaders. Leberecht, an author and producer of the "Reinvent Business" hackathons, is known for helping the likes of Apple, AT&T, BMW, Disney, GE, HP, Intel, SAP, Siemens, Sony, and many other Fortune 500 brands realize market product and service innovations.

According to Leberecht, “a number of business thinkers and leaders have begun to embrace the arts, not as an escapist notion, a parallel world after office hours, or a creative asset, but as an integral part of the human enterprise that ought to be woven into the fabric of every business—from the management team to operations to customer service.”

It sounded like a pretty far stretch to me until I considered what insurance business and IT teams go through to accomplish collective goals. Facing small and large challenges alike, these disparate teams are made up of people who by nature share some common traits: expert knowledge, intuition, life experience, business experience, and a level of creativity that plays forward into being able to collaborate, strategize and solve their challenges. In other words, both business and IT folks understand the critical role innovation plays in creating unique solutions to complex problems.

Knowing business and IT teams still tend to struggle, it might help to review Leberecht’s proposed 12 traits (http://www.managementexchange.com/blog/what-innovators-can-learn-artists) common to artists, and think about the affinities born of those traits.

“Like art, true innovation … meets complexity with simple, elegant solutions; and rewards risk-taking and vulnerability with lasting value,” he says. “However, businesses must refrain from making art a disciple of innovation—and they must refrain from designing innovation as a mere process. That is perhaps the golden rule artists and innovators have in common: only if they allow ample space for new things to happen that could happen, will they happen.”

I don’t necessarily agree with Leberecht’s assertion that the “art” of business becomes more important as “science” becomes more ubiquitous, because there is no discounting the role technology plays in fostering a company’s ability to differentiate itself. I do agree, however, that “innovators [read business and IT] must develop a mindset and cultivate creative habits in order to see the world afresh and create something new.”

Pat Speer is an editorial consultant for Insurance Networking News.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Pat by using the “Add Your Comments” box below. Shealso can be reached at patricia.speer@sourcemedia.com.

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

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