A discussion Godin’s thought leadership gems from his brilliant book, The Icarus Deception, started off with an in-depth look at just how the thinker defines art in business. Unlike most ground-breaking works of creative labor, Godin’s work requires us to pause to really saturate the idea he’s trying to get across. For one, Godin draws on the Greek myth of Icarus to spin an original interpretation on a classic tale about reaching new heights and stepping out of boundaries, however fatally, while at the same time encouraging us to be artists. So the underlying question many of you will have is: what do the two have to do with each other.
A lot, actually. Here’s what Godin is getting at…
The core message in his work is the deception in the Icarus tale. The deception is how we’re taught to believe the myth is about staying in your place, when really it’s about reaching new heights. It’s about breaking with convention and trying something new, something daring, even if that attempt fails. That call to action carries over to us in present day. For Godin, that call to action is for us to rise as artists.
Godin also gets into tactics vs. art. He impresses the difference between having a strategy, and actually doing the work to achieve those goals (the work of an artist). As he phrases it, having a notebook full of ideas is useless – the question is what are you doing to connect those ideas to others? That notebook isn’t art. Your scribbled thoughts formed in a way that reach others, however, is art. What you actually do with that notebook is the act of an artist; it is Icarus flying high. Essentially it comes down to commitment, to doing the work everyday that it takes to really fulfill your artistic purpose.
From there, Godin jumps to what he considers a new kind of business scarcity – and that’s emotional labor. Of course, it’s something that art demands of us and what the artist must be willing to offer. Think of any successful startup that rose from nothing and you’ve got yourself an example of emotional labor. Think of any historical figure, a mover and shaker whose words still stir us, and you’ve got another example of emotional labor. Emotional laborers are noise makers; they’re disruptive change agents. If you doubt the value of disruptive change agents, just pick up Harvard Business Review’s most recent special issue that’s dedicated entirely to this one personality type.
The word “disruption” might is frightening to business owners that haven’t quite caught onto the new model of business, the new economy discussed in part 1 of this two part series. The word still carries a negative and chaotic connotation, but as Godin reminds us, “Revolution brings chaos…that’s what makes them revolutionary,” (11). We can recognize that this level of breakthrough freedom to explore business in a new way is still very scarce – but it’s catching on and it’s necessary.
It’s necessary because art isn’t really art “until a connection is made.” This means taking that notebook and publishing into a book isn’t art – but taking that published work and finding a way to reach people through your ideas and inspiration, is considered art. A connection isn’t about the act of engagement; it’s about how much they think of you or your ideas, how much they’ve used them, once you walk away.
This drive to share, to dream, is what Godin says defines a culture that initiates change on a mass level though their emotional labor (43-44). Godin calls it the “n” factor, the element in a society where a population aspires and dreams. It’s that vision of “the achieving society” that translates into actionable change. In a nut shell, it’s a society that’s a breeding ground for artists and change agents. (21)
What is an artist if not a catalyst for change? Whether it’s shifting the way we do business, raising the benchmark on design, or creating new thought models, an artist’s calling is interpretation, creation, and then connection. As a marketer and business thought leader, your day-in and day-out goal is to also find pockets great and small for the same purposeful thinking…and then act on it in way that echoes your impression.
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