“The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind — creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers. These people — artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers — will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.”
— Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind
Much has been written by Pink and others recently about the power of the right brain and the necessity to turn our attention as businesspeople, educators, parents, counselors, mentors and others involved with human development to fostering right brain capabilities. We are all born with creative capacity. Culture, events and life circumstances often bury those capacities.
The beauty of the artist is the right brain capability; in Pink’s words, design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning. Clearly these competencies often present in the artist require different and complementary skills and competencies to support the start of a viable business. These skills include marketing, financial acumen and business planning.
Often we see artists who want to make a business of their art partner with others to put these requirements in place within their business. This approach can be costly when a new business is being “bootstrapped.” However, another solution is education for the artist in the basics — an entrepreneurial boot camp or “start -up for dummies” approach.
Experiential learning is the optimal approach. Experiencing the learning that can be acquired from making mistakes in a low risk environment builds strength, confidence and courage. Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade and vintage goods, is one way to get this kind of experience.
Rob Kalin, the founder of Etsy, once said, “We want to allow the makers of the world to claim authorship for what they’re making. This is what Etsy stands for, the little guy being able to organize a better marketplace.”
Etsy members must personally make what they sell. For some, Etsy is both the start and the end of their entrepreneurial experience. For others, it is a basis for making ends meet while learning about the business of being in business for oneself. Based upon the Etsy experience, an artist might decide to license his or her product to someone else to sell and distribute or to open up a manufacturing facility and move to a more traditional startup model.
Like other entrepreneurs, artists often are most fulfilled when they can see the impact of their work on others. Commenting on an individual buying something she made with her own hands, one Etsy seller, Eileen Tepper, said, “My little hobby feels so big. You can’t get that at Wal-Mart.” Howard County artist Paul Weller, of Glass Expressions by Paul (featured in this issue), is overjoyed when he sees someone happy with a piece he has created.
For those of us who are not “artists,” as traditionally defined, opening up our right brain carries many benefits to our roles in business. Innovative thinking and acting is the basis for some of today’s most successful startups. It takes practice to learn to use our right brain more effectively. Some of our learned habits and environmental conditions at work do not foster the creative approach.
Pink and others offer practices to assist us in shifting our behavior. However, if we hope to take this on, it is essential that we commit time to this. Practices like journaling, listening to music or walking in nature all require us to slow down and open space so that the buried creative seed can blossom forth.
Sharon Schmickley is chairperson of the Business and Computer Systems Division, and Betty Noble is director of the Center for Entrepreneurial and Business Excellence, both at Howard Community College. They can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, respectively.