Michelangelo was much more than an extraordinary artist who learned the techniques of his era--he was a creative genius who looked at the world in ways that other artists never imagined.
Joseph Sherman is a social media expert who specializes in helping companies put their best foot forward online. He is also an abstract expressionist artist, and his paintings are displayed in embassies and cultural institutes around the world. I invited Joseph to provide his insights into the way Michelangelo's David can help us approach business differently, and how these insights can transform the way you lead.
1. Innovate by Cutting Away
Michelangelo wrote that painting is a process of building up--of taking a blank canvas and adding colors until it is a painting. Sculpture is a process of cutting away at a piece of stone until an image is formed. For Michelangelo, both are ultimately rooted in the same faculty of knowledge.
Business Insight: We often think of startups as the ultimate creative business experience. Michelangelo teaches us that starting with an established corporation that is as hard as a rock is another aspect of innovation. Just like the masterpiece of David was hidden in the marble, the next wave of innovation may be hidden in larger corporations.
2. Embrace Imperfections
What do the names Agostino di Duccio and Antonio Rossellino mean to you? Not much, I would guess. These two men began working on the block of marble that would become David 25 years before Michelangelo was awarded the contract. They quit working on David, however, because the massive block of marble had too many imperfections which made the marble unstable.
Business Insight: Imperfections create the opportunity for a masterpiece business. Knowing how to work with imperfections gives leaders the opportunity to turn what others reject into something with real value. Some managers only want to work with who they see as "high potential" employees. Why not consider a candidate that has tremendous potential, yet who was declined by others because of imperfections that you can work with?
3. Consider All Your Options
David was originally intended to be placed on top of Florence's cathedral, but the city council of Florence decided that if David was placed there, people would not be able to appreciate the statue. Many of Italy's leading artists were asked which alternative would be best, including Sandro Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci. These artists suggested 9 different locations in the city before agreeing on the Academy.
Business Insight: Leaders will face options that are all brilliant, but in the end one choice must be made. Your marketing team may have three excellent ideas for the next campaign (or product to develop), and choosing one does not diminish the merits of the others. Acknowledge the merits of every suggestion--you may learn important lessons from each of them, even those that are not the final decision.
4. Embrace Replicas
There are replicas of David around the world--from a marble replica in Recife, Brazil, to Stanford University's Digital Michelangelo Project.
Business Insight: Replicas add to the value of the original. The presence of a replica reminds people that there is something they are missing, a mystique that compels them to want to personally see and experience the original. Letting others create something that replicates what you do may build your business. Or better yet, create the replica yourself and let people marvel at the original.