Over the past several months, I’ve been part of a team developing an experiential program on creativity and innovation for business audiences.
We are now stepping up our marketing efforts for the program, and in the course of this I contacted my network, asking permission to send info on “a creativity and innovation program.” One person replied with the question:
Are we talking about professional creativity, or artistic creativity?
I understood the question, and the concern which I think it implied: does this program impart business value?
But I was also struck by the terms which he used to frame the question: “professional” or “artistic.”
I trust that he is savvy enough to understand that many, many artists produce their work at a professional level; and I also know him to be a person enough in tune to the human dynamic in business settings to appreciate the artistry often evident in management and leadership. So I don’t think he really intended to imply that the two values are in opposition.
But I do think his language points to something important, something deeper—an unease with the particular type of human expression (for this discussion, we’ll label it “artistic”) which often seems, from the outside, to operate on a weird, irrational level.
A friend and I (she is a businesswoman and artist like myself) have coined a phrase for this: Fear of the Pink Tutu.
This is the fear that: (a) if a particular type of artsy-creativity is allowed to infiltrate the corridors of industry, any number of serious-minded professionals will be seduced into abandoning their business objectives and throwing themselves into pantomimes of Swan Lake; or (b) that—in a somewhat less threatening but nonetheless similarly uncomfortable display—said serious-minded professionals will be forced to endure a demonstration of the same by an erstwhile team of artsy “consultants.”
I wonder about the Pink Tutu phenomenon. To be quite frank, I do believe, from years of experience, that there often is something mysterious about the “artistic/creative” process. And yes, that this is part of its power—for both the artist and the audience.
And, I’m also learning that there is enough stuff and nonsense out there about “creativity” in the business world, that the serious-minded professional is wise to be selective.
Still, the the idea that the sometimes mysterious, irrational process of “artistic creativity” might actually have business value needn’t be a risky proposition. Studies show that students who engage in music and drama classes score higher than their peers, not only in language arts, which we might expect, but also in math and science. Expressive arts enhance emotional literacy, compassion, and self-knowledge, at all ages.
It is, ultimately, that which is within us that drives us. But can we always name it? Or is it, too, something of a mystery? The degree to which we can experience the mysterious and seemingly irrational (or non-rational) components in ourselves is the degree to which we can fully inhabit our lives, professional and otherwise. It brings wholeness, which brings wisdom—which is a very friendly condition for professional success.
So, what color is your tutu?