It’s easy to put artists in the box of “whimsical creatures that live outside societal norms,” so why would business leaders turn to them for guidance and insight about how to make their organizations more profitable and run more efficiently?
Turns out, the leaders in companies such as Capital One, GAP, GE, Mozilla, MTV, and Coca-Cola have done just that, turning to the artist-consultants of Another Limited Rebellion and K-Hole to help solve their innovation and branding problems.
MTV turned to K-Hole when they needed a fresh perspective on marketing and branding. The NYC trend forecasting group, founded by Greg Fong, Sean Monahan, Chris Sherron, Emily Segal, and Dena Yago, produces reports that are designed to provide insight and guidance about the future of marketing and branding. You won’t find stat-driven research in their reports about doubt, freedom, and patience. Their unassuming PDFs provide humor and an authentic tone that includes hope and resolve, while making bold statements based purely on their opinions.
Sean Monahan explained why organizations are turning to artists when in a brand-identity existential crisis: “Culture is changing faster than ever. If you want to understand what that means, you need more than someone who specializes in branding. You need consultants who can lead you through the cultural shifts in real time and who are actually engaged in the production of culture.”
Fong broke down the challenge of using standard marketing research: “Everyone who is using the same market-driven data are coming to the same conclusions, and they realize there isn’t a competitive advantage to using the same information as everyone else, so they turn to outsiders who are thinking outside of the profit margin to show them their blind spots.”
Another company, Another Limited Rebellion (ALR), started out as a web design company founded by Noah Scalin. In finding an answer to his own need for a creative outlet outside of the humdrum of work, Noah started Skull-A-Day, which took off as an internet phenomenon. Since then, he has authored five books on design and creativity and traveled the world bringing his message of creative potential and design activism to everyone from incarcerated teenagers to Fortune 500 executives. Noah then teamed up with his sister Mica Scalin to create the new iteration of ALR, which now teaches core creative practices and an art-based training methodology essential to sustained innovation and growth to clients including Capital One, GAP, GE, Mozilla, and Coca- Cola.
“Creativity is a skill that can be learned,” Noah Scalin declares. “The set of skills artists learn allows us to be consistently innovative and consistently come up with new ideas.”
ALR teaches the practical skills of how to be creative, and introduces the artist tool kit in their workshops, where they teach how to:
- Work with the unexpected and experiment
- Take risks
- Deal with critique
- Develop a practice of creativity
- Shape a mindset of tolerance for imperfection
- Develop a space to create in (physical, mental, time)
Noah shared how just the presence of an artist can shake things up: “It is so unusual to bring an artist into the room that our mere presence wakes people up in the room. They aren’t falling asleep looking at another power point.”
But introducing an entirely new approach to examining old problems isn’t always easy. Noah explains, “The reality is when I show up at an event and I say I am going to tell a story about skulls, people can be skeptical. But I’ve watched as the audience gets excited when they make connections they have never made before because they are looking at their issues in a different way.”
He says, “At the beginning of every presentation, I ask, ‘How many people think creativity is a part of your job today?’ Almost everyone raises their hand. Then I ask, ‘How many people feel confident about your creativity?’ And only one or two hands go up. By the end of the session, they have all experienced their own capacity to be creative. It’s an amazing transformation.”
Leah Lamb is a writer and storyteller based in the Bay Area. She consults and gives workshops about how to foster creativity in the workplace.