We speak often about viewing one’s work with an artist’s eye, of embracing the process of discovery and creativity to form new approaches and processes. Amy Whitaker calls it art thinking, and her recent book about it is a recommended read.
We know that design thinking in business has enjoyed considerable success. It’s an approach that provides the framework for designing products or processes to solve problems creatively and to find the best possible answer to a question. Frog Design Inc. is one such company that has achieved great success using design thinking to embrace the Experience Economy.
Art thinking is not so much about solving how to get from Point A to Point B (design thinking) but about inventing Point B, about being open to new things and taking the risks involved to explore new ideas. In art thinking, when we don’t know where we need to go, we need to start by asking ourselves “lighthouse” questions, which are questions that propel us forward to discover Point B. Examples might be: “Why isn’t this working?” “How could it be better?”
Then we must decide how much “studio time” we need to work on it and to set that time aside. It might be an hour a day or week; it might be more. The prospect of success or failure isn’t important at this point. What’s important is our belief in our lighthouse question and our commitment to it.
Whitaker uses the concept of a letter and an envelope to illustrate these points – the letter is the project (or the answer to our lighthouse question) and the envelope is the job or business model/design that fits the project. Sometimes our letter will fit a known envelope, and sometimes the envelope needs to be designed as well. AirBnB is a company that had to design its own envelope, that took its lighthouse question of “Wouldn’t it be cool if people could stay in other people’s homes when they travel?” and created a design for making that happen.
The beauty of art thinking is that it fosters a passionate approach to one’s work. It allows for personalized expression and fosters an agile mind. Its solutions are reflective of the individual or individuals creating it. As a result, it provides fertile ground for authenticity as well as pragmatism, engagement and memorability, all key components of the Experience Economy.