There is possibly a third: the guy who invented the Shake Shack burger, but even Danny Meyer doesn't get the same attention a half-decent (or even the rumor of a half-decent) programmer gets. Of course, some educational leaders with an appreciation for the arts have tried to turn STEM into STEAM (the "A" standing for Arts), but it hasn't really caught on.
STEM focuses entirely on the how, and not the why.
It is completely possible to build a structurally sound, perfectly engineered STEM project designed solely for mass murder.
Just ask Robert Oppenheimer's ghost.
However, the need to incorporate art and creativity into business has a much more relevant purpose than just abstract discussions of atomic bombs--but to illustrate that, I need to share a personal story.
In my early twenties I was going nowhere. I wasn't even interesting enough to have an interesting problem. I didn't spend my evenings learning what crack tastes like. I wasn't part of a sophisticated criminal enterprise--it was just my friends and me stealing what we could from dead-end retail jobs.
When you lack goals, there is just inertia.
I was in the midst of a nineteen-year stagnation when I came across a book titled It Ain't No Sin to Be Glad You're Alive: The Promise of Bruce Springsteen. I liked the cover, and as I read, I realized that I loved the way the author loved Bruce Springsteen. After I finished the book, I went to Borders, bought Born to Run, drove up to the mountains, and plugged it into the CD player in my Honda Civic.
And everything changed.
I discovered there were stars worth reaching for--and just how badly I wanted to raise my hand--by the thirty-second mark of "Thunder Road." I went back to the HUD-subsidized apartment I lived in with my brother and wrote "$50" on the calendar stuck to our fridge. That was the amount I could set aside on the date of my next paycheck for what would become my college fund.
I think about that moment and what it meant for me, a lot--but there are more than just personal lessons to learn.
In 2000, a Honda Civic was the car for a nineteen-year-old boy. The street racing culture made famous by The Fast and The Furious was already the centerpiece of my Saturday night. Having a car with a CD player was also still somewhat of a status symbol.
Today a Honda Civic is just another low-cost sedan.
And a CD player in a used Civic is not a status symbol--unless the status you want to project is "My ATM card is basically useless after I make my child support payments."
Of the four businesses that combined to create that moment for me--Honda, the makers of an aftermarket CD player, the manufacturers of the CD, and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band--only one retains the same (or better) market share, and that's Bruce and his band.
Or the only business of the four built on art and creativity.
Your company is not a band.
Every product you innovate will be out-innovated. Every corporate giant we take as a fact of life will one day be a historical footnote.
But when you change a heart, you change it forever. That's what art and creativity do--and that's why they are so important to both product development and corporate communication.
You can't code your way into immortality.
You can't SEO your way to inspiration.
But you can create something truly meaningful if you make creativity and art part of your corporate culture.