Went to a really interesting talk recently in the lovely Fumbally stables in Dublin 8.
Aisling Rogerson (Co-founder of the Fumbally) had invited Ari Weinzweig from Zingermanns food stores in Ann Arbor in Michigan and his talk was entitled the Art of Business, he was also launching a pamphlet of the same name.
I hadn’t heard of Zingermanns previously but was attracted by the idea that they have been involved in bakerys, delis, education and the promotion of good food in the States. They have several bakerys, delis and speciality food stores, which they describe as a community of food stores, each with their own unique identity and management team.
They demonstrate an egalitarian approach to running their businesses and their ethos is one of inclusion, ensuring participation from staff and their business model is one of promoting freedom and autonomy for their staff. And they say it works, that if employees are feeling involved and included in decision making they will want to work harder and give of their best.
What was also interesting was that Ari was advocating that we each approach our life as art and our business as artists and that we utilise our creativity to develop our lives. The implication being that our work and life don’t need to be that different, especially if we are following our passion and bringing our creativity.
Business as an Eco system & Power of Beliefs
Ali spoke about businesses being an eco system and that failure and success can happen simultaneously as in ecological systems in nature and that we need to plant lots of seeds because not all of them will take root and grow and develop as we might like. He also presented a really interesting model about the importance of beliefs and self fulfilling beliefs. Essentially it is concerned with the idea that our beliefs effect our actions which then influence others beliefs and others actions. He has written extensively on this model, (originated with Bob and Judith Wright from the Wright Institue in Chicago) and it is a very simple yet profound model. Essentially, our beliefs have an enormous impact on how we act and also alters what we see as we filter according to our beliefs. We allow in information which matches our beliefs. He also suggests that the commonly used expression “I will Believe it when I see it” would be best flipped the other way that “ I will see it when I believe it “ . Beliefs are crucial to our experiences and how we act and we can have control over this. This matches with the discoveries in neuro science around the power of thought and the observer effect, where scientists discovered that the thoughts of observers influenced the outcomes of experiments.
He talks about most business models are mechanistic, machine like models that don’t allow for freedom and autonomy. Instead he seeks to facilitate people to take ownership and to take responsibility as much as they can. Obviously this will be limited according to their levels of skills and experience but the ethos is one of supporting staff to be responsible and empowered in their approach .
Business as Art we all need to be agents of our own lives. This is especially true in our current environment where the institutions that we knew and were held in regard are now crumbling whether it concerned with religion, our education system or indeed many of us found that even in our personal lives long term established relationships don’t seem to be able to withstand the turbulence that prevails.
Bringing Mindfullness & Creativity to our Work
In his pamphlet “The art of Business (2018)“ he describes further that if we approach our work as artists we will pay more attention to the small details and be more careful in our interactions . He also suggests that we will be more creative around problem solving and get much more pleasure out of what we do. He talks about “mindless behaviour”; behavior that we engage in which can be routine but we are not really aware of ourselves or the struggles of those we are working with. Being more aware he suggests will make a huge difference “If you imagine the difference between 50 people in a business who are mindfully, carefully attending to nearly every action they take and treating each moment as if it matters in making the work of art that is their day, and compare that to a company with 50 people who are just going through the motions…that’s a pretty significant difference.”
His approach is I believe hugely relevant in our current environment where the institutions that we knew and held in high regard are now crumbling whether concerned with religion, our education system , banking and so on . He is inviting us to seek to take back responsibility and agency for our lives more than ever. It is imperative that as Ali Zimmerman invited us to do, to become creators and be aware of the choices we make daily.
In places of work, companies and organsiations are already seeking to find ways to accommodate different employees and their unique situations. Practical differences are around increased flexi time, working from home and more interest in wellness and staff engagement and satisfaction. It is now well recognised that treating people well and encouraging their autonomy works for both individuals and organisations.
The talk also prompted me to to think about how to apply art and creativity more in my own life.
Creativity is more than ever relevant to the world we work and live in.