Art or Science?

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“Art isn’t something that’s made by artists.  Artists are people who make art.”

–     Seth Godin, in his 2012 book, The Icarus Deception

Earlier this week I recommended the book Concussion, and today, we saw the movie.  No spoiler alert necessary but a lot of the story hinges on science — on what can be proven, validated, verified, documented, etc.  Art, on the other hand is sort of like the Justice Potter Stewart’s (US Supreme Court 1959-1981) definition of hard core pornography;  “I know it when I see it.”  A perfect, no-look pass in basketball, a deft conversational maneuver to avert disaster or a negotiations inspiration that completely changes the course of the deal are examples that come to mind.

Often, I’ve been asked if leadership in general (and sales leadership in particular) is more art or science.  They’re inextricably linked, is my answer.  The science is important when we need to measure, assess, evaluate or price.  The art, however, is critical when we need to decide, change or respond.

Seth, who is simply the most consistently amazing talent I’ve encountered in my 30 year career, goes on to say, “Art is not a gene or specific talent.  Art is an attitude, culturally driven and available to anyone who chooses to adopt it.”

Where the magic really happens is when the art is inspired by the science — where a seemingly unanswerable question arises from the data — and the spark of science connects with the fuel of art.

Art gets us moving forward, art gets us inspired, energized and engaging.  And remember, I’m not talking about Picasso / Beethoven / Ansel Adams art, I’m talking about that “stuff” inside you, waiting to get out and make a difference.


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