November 23, 2021

Nir Hindi - The Art Mindset for Business

My guest today is Nir Hindi, founder of The Artian – a transdisciplinary training company committed to nurturing an artistic mindset in the business environment – and host of the Artian podcast. Nir works with a wide range of organisations and has gained an equally large number of accolades, including being chosen as one of the 100 experts of Cotec, an organization for promoting innovation in Spain, chaired by no less than Felipe VI, the Spanish King.

Nir says he has for years believed in the power of art to drive originality and novelty in business but was searching for the how. Until he discovered the way artists think, work, and create. And, more importantly, why it is relevant to business. Since then, Nir has been evangelizing the concept of the Art Mindset in business, a mindset he believes is necessary for the future of organizations.


Note: This transcript is machine-generated and may contain some errors.

Andy Polaine 00:09

Hi and welcome to Power of Ten. A podcast about design operating at many levels zooming out from thoughtful detail through to organisational transformation and all the changes in society and the world. My name is Andy Polaine. I’m a service design and innovation consultant, coach, trainer and writer.

My guest today is Nir Hindi the founder of the Artian, a transdisciplinary training company committed to nurturing an artistic mindset in the business environment and host of the art and podcast near works with a wide range of organisations and has gained an equally large number of accolades including being chosen as one of the 100 experts of Kotek, an organisation for promoting innovation in Spain chaired by no less than philippic The sixth, the Spanish king near says yes, for years believed in the power of art to derive originality and novelty in business. But we’re searching for the how until he discovered the way artists think, work and create, and more importantly, why it’s relevant to business. Since then, near has been evangelising, the concept of the art mindset in business, a mindset he believes is necessary for the future of organisations. Nir, welcome to Power of Ten.

Nir Hindi 01:15

Thank you, Andy. That’s a such a generous introduction.

Andy Polaine 01:20

It’s well deserved. So let’s start with where did this first sort of insight come from? Where did you first start thinking Hang on, there’s a… So in the introductory episode of The Artian and your podcast, you talk about this idea of most people consider art in terms of objects, but you had this kind of moment of sort of inside of note, but this is something else. And it’s a way of thinking about the world, and that this could really apply to business. How did that start?

Nir Hindi 01:46

I think it’s kind of a development it. It wasn’t overnight. Since my childhood, I had two great patients entrepreneurship and art. But as you know, society channel has to choose. And I chose to go to the world of business. And I studied economics and what technology and started my own thing, but at the same time, I got involved with art, I started to just to get interested in art again, and I met many artists that slowly became my friends. And back then I already had my own companies. And when we used to meet each other, they used to ask me questions that I said, but how can they think about it that way? It’s like, artist, they don’t understand business. And just like many, I guess, have listeners, that’s kind of the thought that I had. And but that’s also what intrigued my curiosity asked myself, but I just don’t understand business. So how come they come with those questions, and I embarked on a journey to try to understand how it influenced business. And that’s what kind of led me into this journey of understanding the artistic mindset. And as you mentioned, my biggest realisation, after a few years was that art is not an object, we tend to think about art as a painting as a song as a book as a movie. But it is the outcome of the thinking process. And the moment you understand that the art is a mentality, then a lot of avenues open, and you can actually understand how it’s necessary to have it in business.

Andy Polaine 03:13

So one of the other things is that art and being an artist is obviously often thought of in terms of the craft, right the skill of painting, the skill of sculpting, or whatever it is that changed in the rise of modern and contemporary art, that it was much more around the thinking behind things. And in some cases, there are fabricators who who make the objects, but it’s the kind of the idea for it in the first place. You know, much too, sometimes it’s been sort of heavily criticised. But that’s not art. That’s just some dots on a wall or whatever it is. So you know, you went in, you spoke to kind of many artists, your spectrum of people in business, what was the sort of fundamental use of talked about they see the world in different way? In what way? Do they see the world differently?

Nir Hindi 03:52

Listen, I think that artist leads with questions. That’s one of the things that I see they are always posing and formulating question. It’s never about accepting the status quo as is. So that’s by itself already, kind of invite kind of reflection, that they ask you those thorough questions. And let me give you an example. I just interviewed a few weeks ago, an artist named Lauren McCarthy in law named McCarthy actually is she’s interested a lot in AI and surveillance and Sound Devices like Alexa. And one of the things she asked herself is that we bring those devices into our home without really understanding and asking the right questions. So what did what did she do? She actually created a project of her own, she call it Lowen. And basically, she sent cameras to your home with microphones and everything she installed it in your home and she become a human Alexa, then you tell her lawyer and I want to find a restaurant for tonight except now when you suddenly understand that there is a human behind it. People who are more cautious in one of the person she she actually She was actually thinking about bringing Alexa but he wanted to try it. So by this work, I think low end makes us think about these devices that we think are harmless. But actually you bring a company into your home into your living room when you have your children your personal space. So this is kind of one example that I think that artists are very good at and relevant to business in inference businesses that artists lead with question. They don’t take the status quo as is, which we often what we say we need in innovation. And we can discuss why I think artists are the people to go to when it comes to innovation.

Andy Polaine 05:37

So I can hear all the designers listening to this podcast. Well, that’s what we do in design, too. We explore the problem space, we ask the why the five Why’s the whys behind the why. And, you know, arguably, there’s critical design offs and design fictions that sort of live in that space that we’re just talking about, actually. But in what way, I don’t really want or not yet want to ask the difference between art and design, but in what way? Do they question the world differently or question that problem space differently? Do you think?

Nir Hindi 06:04

there is something I mean art, in many ways, it’s human, okay. And it’s made by human for human but artists are not creating artworks for you, as the individual is like, ah, gold in I guess people familiar with his book, The planet earth, He is the one that actually is what he was an artist, a designer, engineer, invento. And he’s the one that CO found or founded, the artist in residence programming. Xerox PARC, Palo Alto Research Centre in the 90s, was a legendary artist in residence programme. And he defined it very, very nicely said, artist will paint a painting and ask yourself, Do I like it? Yes or No, a designer will paint the painting and ask the user, do you like it? Yes or no. And I think it’s kind of one example that, at least for me, a communicate the differences? It’s, they’re motivated by question that doesn’t necessarily have end result, in a way.

Andy Polaine 07:04

Yeah. And so this, I think, is one of the fundamental differences. And I agree, I’m enough, also taught and worked in art design in different contexts. And, you know, it’s most obvious in something like visual design, where, you know, in general, a graphic designer is working to communicate on behalf of someone else. And an artist is usually saying, here’s an interesting way of seeing the world, or I see the world in this way, or here’s the thing I’ve made, it’s going to help you see the world in a different way. Exactly. You know, I think kind of designers do do it in a sense of set. But I think they’re pushed around a lot more in the sense of, there’s many more constraints quite often in what they can do. And I often talk about this sort of balance between humility and ego, designer, you have a certain amount of ego to kind of manifest the same thing, then artists has to have, you know, to manifest something in the world and say, I’ve made a thing, look at the thing I’ve made, and yet, you know, the humility to take critique to take direction criticism, and and kind of iterate multiple times. Now, obviously, artists do that, too. But they’re their own critic, mostly. In that, you know, there is the always the escape hatch of an artist. If someone says, Well, this is rubbish you can we just don’t understand it, or I don’t care. Yeah. And that’s the difference. They can say, I don’t care in the way that a designer maybe can’t. You’ve been giving workshops and doing development work with business people, right? Yeah, I’m really, really interested in what you bring to those because there’s obviously like a zillion Design Thinking workshops and stuff. So you’ve talked about the kind of Renaissance sort of birth of renascence thinking or return to renascence thinking, and you’ve written a book about Azure of a new paradigm in management. So I’m really interested in what you bring to those sessions, what you actually get those people to do and what kind of people they are, and what the response has been?

Nir Hindi 08:46

It’s a great question. And I’ll tell you something, I think that what I try to do is not what to make people do. I want to make people think, you know, for so many years we got used to separate those disciplines, is when you think about entrepreneur, you don’t think about out graduate. I mean, today is much more common to to see the design, but think about it designers that starting companies, but you don’t think about a artist as people that can start companies. And then you have companies like Airbnb, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia. They studying industrial design, but Brian Chesky used to paint a lot and he was actually kind of a I think, if I remember correctly, even won a competition when he was 16 or 17. In a painting around the US. When you look at Snapchat, Steven Spiegel went to art school. When you look at the Canva when you look at even Esquel g mackell. V the co founder of square he study engineering, yes, but he’s also doing art since he was in, in school. So So Pinterest, I think they found Yeah, also in YouTube, one of the co founder of YouTube, etc. So when you think about it, you Don’t think that artists can actually create companies. But I think it goes to one misconception that maybe it’s worth touching. Often when I say artists people image immediately imagining a painter in the studio. Yeah. But how artists are more than painters artist, I always say that those are very curious people that always interested in what is available for them. And one of them is, obviously technologies. And there is a great examples for invention and innovations that we are using today that was invented by artists or collaboration of artists, engineers. To give you a one example, in the 70s, there was the legendary programme experiments in art and technology, they just brought it to life three, five years ago, I had the conversation with the head of the current model of it, but one of the things they wanted to do in Expo 9070 Is that to cover the pavilion of Pepsi that contacted this group, and they invited an artist, and she’s a fog artist. And she said, we need to end until the 70s fog could have been produced only in a chemical process. And she insisted that it should be environmental. So together with an engineer, she developed a water based electricity, a fog producer that today is being used in manufacturing, in agriculture, and in cooling homes, etc. That’s that’s one example. I can give you many more. So going back to your question, when I come to the businesses, I try to make them think not necessarily immediately do because business is so focused on execution, that sometimes we don’t stop to think and what I try to make them think about is if the solution that we are taking or the way that we are taking is that the right one, the people that we are hiring are they’re the right people, because if CV was the best recipe for success, so every company that hires someone will be a match 100 Match basically the tinder of the world for employee employees. But but it’s not that way. So it doesn’t mean that if the world becomes so complex, I mean, it’s important to have specialisation but you have to create the bridges for the generalist and not to undermine one the value of the generalist because that’s exactly what happened in the Renaissance you had Philippa Bona Lenski, the one that built the dome and rediscover the linear perspective that changed science, architecture, and obviously out but he was an engineer, a sculptor was Goldsmith, a ship designer, so so there’s a,

Andy Polaine 12:30

I know, there’s a sort of conversation or there’s a, you know, study of Renaissance people. And that was a kind of period of time where it was possible to know not know everything, but know a lot about a lot. And now that the world has become so much more complex, that’s just it’s gonna be impossible anymore to be there. And the you know, I come about as far as trying to think of the date, but I’m sure someone, something I read or something around sort of mid 18th century was the last point where you could sort of say, I kind of know about everything. So what’s your response to this idea of yes, it’s a it’s a really nice idea. But you know, now there was too complex, and we need specialists to deal with that complexity. That’s a common response to this.

Nir Hindi 13:11

Listen, in my own opinion, Renaissance thinking is an approach. It’s not about knowing everything is about are you saying to yourself, I want to know everything I know about finance, in the industry of insurance. That’s it. That’s that’s that’s how you define your life? Not, God forbid. And I’m not saying that working in finance, insurance is not good. It’s just I’m saying it for me. And in essence thinking is an approach is about the ability to be curious about life and ask us questions and find inspiration in other disciplines and not narrowing the way we think the people we interact with. And the environment we work with to the same homogeneous way of thinking because that’s what happens. I would have loved to see more a business programmes that actually will bring artists to speak about leadership because for me, we had an example in January 2021, the world and especially the US is so divided. And then you had 22 years old poet going on stage, Amanda Gorman and capture the heart of people of millions of people. And she doesn’t understand anything about business. And probably she doesn’t understand anything about politics, but you understand people and I think we can learn so much from her how she communicate. Every time in the business world, we talk about vision and mission. But what does it mean as the people in the the one that enter to the door or everyday? Do they really understand your vision? Are they buying into your vision, and I think there is much more opportunity for cross pollination that we are missing. So for me the main message Renaissance thinking is an approach in life. How do you decide to educate yourself because everyone talked with me about the education system education system is one thing but education something much more wide? Because you can educate yourself. You get education from your parents, from your, from your friends, and I was lucky enough that you know, I was surrounded by different influences that made me ask questions and be curious to try and learn more my obviously more generalist, then a specialist. I’m not saying that we don’t need specialisation, if I ever have a problem, I would like to have a specialised doctor working on me in that sense. But I think it’s also one one thing that on a personal level, I think your life will be much more interesting when you have different areas of interest.

Andy Polaine 15:21

I mean, one of the ways of creating that cross pollination is artists in residence programmes that you’ve, you’ve written to, which is, and you’ve spoken to people in those and you know, this place a lot, Adobe and IBM and, and, you know, Microsoft, Google, many, many have artists in residence programmes, you know, those can often end up being here’s a bit of sort of money, and it’s a bit of a philanthropic thing of so we can say we’ve got an artist in residence, but that stuff doesn’t really kind of flow into the organisation in any meaningful way. Have you spoken to anyone? Or have you have any examples where that has actually kind of flowed into the organisation? They sort of host organisation in a meaningful way?

Nir Hindi 15:55

Yeah, definitely. I mean, the example that come to mind is, obviously for me is planet and planet today is imaging company, they have I think, more than 250 satellites orbiting around Earth, and now the only company in the world taking images of Earth every day and planet. It’s a great example. Because when they were 24 people, as a startup, they already contacted my friend, Forrest stern as the artist in residence, and I did a podcast with him and seven more of his colleagues, you see how it influences the culture? So one example is that how you can actually create sense of community. So not only that, one of the things they did, they created out evenings with the employees and their kids, and the kids draw a painting that later go been engraved into the satellites, every employee, add their own quote, and that goes on the satellite, how many employees can set I have, I have a satellite in space with my court, it’s a great conversation start. So it’s create dynamic in the environment. And what planet I think did smartly is that forest set, basically, his desk was in the centre of the main home. So when you go to the kitchen, when you go to get coffee, when you see him working, and he started to invite other artists, so there was a sense of creation. And when you listening to the scientists speaking about how suddenly they saw their own work differently, because they interacted without is that show them their own self differently. It’s amazing. You see people that are fulfilled, and I’m not saying it’s easy, because to have a successful artist in residence, you need an excellent translator, someone that will be able to speak to the artist and speak to the business functions, and you will need to have management support. And then we can speak about detail arms is an example.

Andy Polaine 17:45

gonna speak about these arounds as an example.

Nir Hindi 17:49

You know, everyone talks about Apple, and I’m a big fan of Apple. But before Apple, there was brown, and Brown was amazing company. Just last week, I gave a talk about the management commitment for creativity in US Brown is the example and Evan Brown, the son of the founder, that when he took over the company, he built himself around him a group of creative thinkers. The first one that he brought was art historian and a theatre graduate, Dr. Irvin Isla, that he led all the creative and cultural aspects in brown for the next 2030 years. And he had a sculptural detail work was responsible for the corporate identity. And you had the painter that was did the logo, and you had the architects, so everyone was very, very, you know, coming from the world of arts and crafts. Now, when you listen to the terms that humbly, from my own perspective is probably the most influential design of the 20th century, when you listen to Him, He never speaks about himself. He always speak about the founders. And he says, I couldn’t do it, because I could do it just because I had the support of the management. And I think managers don’t understand how crucial they are, when it comes to designing and shaping innovative and creative companies.

Andy Polaine 19:00

Yeah, I agree. I mean, I’ve often talked about leadership as being an enabler, rather than kind of leader in the classic way. I feel like leadership sometimes is quite fetishize, and obviously, kind of everyone wants to be a leader, but no one wants to be a follower. And so you’re got a problem, right? Because to be a leader, you have to have followers. Whereas if you think of it in terms of being an enabler, why, you know, I want to be enabled to do the best things I can and all of those kinds of things. But it also has, you know, I talked about enablement, because it also has the, the negative side of when you think about enabling an addict or enabling bad behaviour, so leadership, as an enabler can go in both directions. So you know, I think this idea of this overlooked of, hey, you know, you can enable this, rather than has to kind of control it and hold it and one of the, you know, you’ve talked about in one of the ways of enabling people, or one of the things that people often try to do inside organisations improve communication and improve collaboration, all in the aid of innovation that much kind of sought after abstract thing. Tell me about what an art intervention is instead of sort of usual workshop?

Nir Hindi 20:02

Great question. I mean, I’ll tell you what I tried to do. One of the things that I think is crucial in innovation is observation, we are often being taught or ask, go outside of the client, observe how they behave, observe how they interact with the product. But I think we do one thing on the wrong way is that we think that observation is a passive action. Observation is active action. And observation is something that you need to develop in home and foster. Now the culture doesn’t allow us to develop observation because you go on Instagram, and you see 200 images in less than a minute, and you go on your street, and you’re on your phone, and you don’t observe the environment around you. So we are not trained to observe and observation is not encouraged by the culture. So what I try to do is stop for a moment, and I’ll put an image on a screen, and then I’ll ask, what do you see? And it’s amazing how the more you ask, suddenly, you see that you take more layers, because it’s amazing when you see you have an image on the screen. And then one person will say, I see a woman, and in the same time, someone will respond what No, it’s men. In this moment, it’s a magic, because they don’t understand how can it be that they look at the same thing, but they see totally different things. Now, I use our to kind of foster and develop observation to date. Also, there is a big research that has been done in Yale that show the, the scientific research behind that. But I think what I try to do always is to show example, how observation take form in the world of business. And if you will allow me to tell a story, I think many, many people will can connect to that I think show observation and understanding clients. So I don’t know about you. But when I enter to the restaurant, when I leave, even before COVID, I don’t like to touch the handle, I prefer to do it with the paper. The thing is that many restroom will put the trash a bit fall, and the one that want to abuse you even more will put a trash that you need to actually press with your leg. So what do you do, you need to open with the handle, you need to open the trash. Basically, you’re like a clown trying to juggle everything. In one day, I enter a building and the trash was open next to the door. I didn’t pay attention. But the day after I came again, and the same trash was open and the day after, again. And I said okay, that’s not a mistake. So I went in each flow of the building. And in each flow, the trash was open in the same position. And then I realised that the cleaning person actually understood how people behave when they leave the restroom, and actually made it easier for them. But that require actually observation to be able to do it. So I mean,

Andy Polaine 22:45

all of which there is to observe to properly observe. Now there’s the quote from Yogi Berra, which is you can see a lot by observing, I think that’s what is, it requires time, daily, you know, and taking time, and I think perhaps one of the things that I was gonna say was artistic luxury, you know, and some people talk about it in those terms, but you know, is actually to take the time to properly look. And I think if you’ve ever done a drawing class, or you know, a lot of it is not about the motor skills of drawing, which I think is what people have to go right back to the beginning. It’s not about those that sort of, mostly anyone who can write or sign their name has got their kind of motor skills to be able to draw learning to draw is about learning to see. Exactly, yeah. So you know, you’ve done a shockingly large number of podcasts with a frequency sheduled that puts me to shame. What have you. Is there a business of any submitter lessons? I think you spent lots and lots of different kinds of people? Is there any sort of meta lessons that we haven’t already kind of talked about you sort of can draw from that range of people have you spoken to

Nir Hindi 23:46

maybe I will speak from the responses that I get not necessarily from the speakers themselves? Because one of the things that and I think this message kind of a maybe summarise it all for me, that someone when they wrote me, please don’t stop the podcast because it gives me hope.

Andy Polaine 24:07

So it’s nice.

Nir Hindi 24:09

So that’s, you know, I think I think creativity is something natural for humans the fact that we say to someone you’re not creative, or you you’re creative, you’re not kind of eliminating a basic human skill or attitude because humans that’s what they do. They’re operating in in creative way and you see it among kids and I think that when you listen to people in this podcast that were able to connect the two and give it manifestation in what they do you ask yourself okay, what what can I do about it for myself? Not that everyone needs to become a an artist, but I think we can open ourselves to much more of a creative of possibilities in the world.

Andy Polaine 24:50

It can be those early experiences can be incredibly stunting and damaging I think, I mean, the opposite is true also for a lot of people in who end up in But in art and design and creative industries, which were things like maths and stuff, which is all, you know, you know, good at maths, and actually, it’s usually just haven’t been taught it in an interesting way. And if you see someone who can talk about maths, or engineering or technology or any of those other things that they sort of, or business for that matter in a way that is engaging and interesting, where they they truly see it, I think it’s the same mindset, actually, you can see the engagement, you can see the fascination in it. A lot of people understand much more than they think. I don’t think there’s ever bad students as bad teachers. Yeah. Yeah, hey, listen, we’re coming up to time. As you know, the podcast is named after this round Charles Ames film called powers of 10. About the relative size of things in the universe. The final question is always one small thing that’s possibly overlooked or underrated, if it was rethought or reimagined would have an outsized effect on the world.

Nir Hindi 25:55

One thing? Wow, that’s, that’s one small thing. One small thing, I think we take things for granted in this world, and I wished it people will be more grateful, just for what we have. I know, it sounds maybe cliche, I just did. I think that this year, kind of reinforce it for me. And I think that if you’re grateful for everything, so at least you have less to complain and actually value more and understand that, yeah, maybe these it’s not the best place that you should have been, but at least you’re in this place. And someone has, so for me, it’s and I think they change the attitude, if you’re grateful, it doesn’t mean you need to accept everything in the world, because I want to see change, but appreciating and starting from that point, I’m grateful. How can I make it even better, so more people will be grateful.

Andy Polaine 26:45

That’s a very good place to end. And I think it’s you know, it’s one of those things that the take a moment to feel the sun on your face and smell the flowers. It’s also the and observe the world around you is the artistic mindset to totally. So where can people find you online? They can go to our website, www dot the Or just type if you are looking for the podcast, shaping business minds throughout. Excellent. And we’ll put any other links, the social stuff and everything else in the show notes. Yeah, thank you so much for being my guest on Power of Ten. Thank you.

As I’m sure you’re aware, you’ve been listening to Power of Ten. My name is Andy Polaine. You can find me at @apolaine on Twitter, or where you can find more episodes and sign up for my newsletter Doctor’s Note. If you like the show, please take a moment to give it a rating on iTunes. It really helps others find us. And as always get in touch. If you have any comments, feedback or suggestions for guests. All the links are in the show notes. Thanks for listening and see you next time.