I have several creative friends. Some are musicians, some photographers, one a playwright, and one friend in particular (Tim) is a performance artist. Tim’s art comes in many forms. He works with autistic children, he tends bar, he plays a manual typewriter and recites as part of jazz improvisation, and he creates sculpture with metal and glass.
Recently I won a piece of Tim’s art at a benefit jam session for autism. To create this piece, Tim uses a sledgehammer to break apart a manual typewriter, heats it to over 1000 degrees and then merges it with glass. It is not typical, nor is it mainstream. But it is his art.
After I got it home, I began to wonder where I might display it. I began to stare at it, study it, and wonder what decor complements a typewriter part embedded in glass? I wanted to find a place for it. It was like the many pictures, pottery and other gifts given to me by my children. I valued the gift of a friend. It is a gift of art that I did not understand – a gift I was trying to appreciate.
Yet, art has no explicit meaning. It evokes your interpretation of meaning. When I stopped trying to interpret it as a form of typewriter, the essence of it jumped into my head. For me the beauty of Tim’s art is that it exemplifies creative destruction – the act of purposefully destroying something to create something else in its place. His art became a metaphor for innovation and Schumpeterian economics.
I believe all forms of innovation have the challenge associated with Tim’s art. Sometimes we do not understand it because our frame of reference obscures meaning. We try to understand someone’s art in reference to other meaning as opposed to what it creates. Sometimes the end result is not always pretty. We prize the dated, yet functioning, item and question its destruction. We mourn the passing of status quo based on the fear of destroying it, versus celebrating and embracing the creation of something – that while possibly unpolished – shows promise.
Innovation within operationally mature organizations presents the added challenge associated with pride of authorship. It is harder to destroy what you created and nurtured, even if its time has come. What would the manufacturer of the typewriter think of Tim’s art? Would it be prized or scorned? Can we develop the ability to look beyond pride of authorship and begin to appreciate the art that emerges?
For me, the end result was placing Tim’s sculpture on my mantle. It is an ever present reminder that we all create art, and while we may not always understand it, we should open ourselves to the possibility that it could be a source of creative destruction.