10 Things I Learned in Art School (That Might Get Missed in Business School)

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Ever since I was a little kid, both creativity and analysis have been part of how I approach the world. Growing up on my family’s corn and soybean farm in southern Minnesota, I always had a wide range of interests and activities: I was the pitcher for my softball team, played the drums and piano, and thrived in math and science classes as well as in art. When it came time to head to college, where I planned to play Division I softball, I chose studio art as my major, with a concentration in ceramics. I ultimately earned my bachelor’s degree in environmental science, with minors in studio art and economics.  

Creativity continued to be a part of my life as I worked in the renewable energy industry and then decided to pursue my MBA at Columbia University. In business school, I took a class from Jacob Goldenberg, who co-wrote the book Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity With Breakthrough Results with Drew Boyd. He led our class through a series of activities in which we were asked to use specific creative strategies. My group blazed through the activities — this type of thinking seemed natural to me. I realized that my artistic background had prepared me for the kind of creative problem-solving that Professor Goldenberg was asking us to do.  

After business school, while working at GE in Energy Financial Services, I realized I needed to reconnect with the creative part of myself. I took photography classes and attended art shows, and then went into business as co-owner of an independent gallery called Lu Magnus. We curated shows that were interactive and thought-provoking, and successfully drew audiences that included both typical gallery crowds and people like my GE coworkers, who almost never went to art shows.  

Studying both art and business and working in places where they intersect has taught me over and over that the skills required to succeed in a creative field — like flexibility, imagination, and perspective — are just as valuable to strategic decisions and product development as they are to painting and sculpture.  

In 2014, I founded Connect the Grey as a way to bring the creative perspective into the business world, and to use innovation, strategic skills, and constructive dialogue to help businesses solve their challenges and enhance their impact.  

This eBook contains 10 principles that I’ve applied from artistic practice to my professional roles, to my time as a business student, and as the founder of my own company. Whether you’re an artist, a business leader, or both, I’m eager to hear more lessons that these two worlds can offer one another. Our “door” is open at info@connectthegrey.com for more thoughts on the connections between art and business. 

Click below to purchase the eBook, which contains the full list of lessons plus prompts for applying them to your own work!