Arts and business – an enriching relationship?

The work environment has changed dramatically, and we live in a VUCA world, a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, or in a nutshell: we have to face the “unknown unknowns”! 

How to navigate? 

How to build a strategy? 

How to develop a mission and vision? 

The fundamental question is: do we have a framework or space and place in your organization to address these challenges? 

We need both creativity and the capacity for innovationtwo main characteristics generally attributed to artists. The arts can offer meanings to make sense in a world of increasing complexity, which cannot be fully understood with scientific forms of logic and sense-making. The arts are dealing with that complexity, thereby offering novel ways of responding. May this be the answer? Bringing artists and arts into the business to help “seeing more and seeing differently” open new horizons and better spot new opportunities? 

In my research for the Executive Doctorate in Business Administration, I addressed the question how arts based initiatives (ABIs) impact the value creation capacity of a business organization. ABIs, also known as artistic interventions, mean that people, practices, and products from the arts are brought into an organization to address certain issues. People in the organization undergo an aesthetic experience, and the arts are embedded as a business asset. ABIs may include all kinds of artistic activities such as “Improvisation theatre,” “group painting,” “playing music together,” “theatre,” “experiencing art together,” or any other artistic activity. The point is that people in the organization are actively involved and challenged in the art projects. Buying some artworks and hanging them in the boss’ office does not count!

What exactly happens when an ABI is taking place in an organization?

ABIs offer the opportunity and the atmosphere to drop the tools of traditional logic and rationality and to gain access to responses such as intuition, feelings, improvisation, imagination, and empathy. The power of ABIs lies in the engagement with the unknown, the ‘not-knowing’, and their role in developing employees’ capacity for ‘mindful organizing’ to deal with the unexpected. 

Besides all the positive impacts attributed to ABIs, my research findings implied that the single most important impact of ABIs on an organization is ABIs are creating space or BA. BA can be understood as a physical and metaphorical space and as a concept can be interpreted as “a shared space of relationships”. Based on the work of the existentialist philosopher Kitaro Nishida, the concept was developed by two Japanese business researchers named Nonaka and Konno in their efforts to explain how knowledge is dynamically created in an organization.

The starting point of this concept is the distinction between explicit knowledge, which is the knowledge of rationality and mind, and tacit knowledge, which is “highly personal and hard to formalize”, covering the human side of knowledge in all its subjectivity. This distinction is based on a concept first introduced by Polanyi in 1966, which essence can be summarized in the phrase “we know more than we can tell“. Tacit knowledge is deeply rooted and embedded in action, our values, our practice, and our emotions. Explicit knowledge is the knowledge approach we learned in school and which is highly valued in western society, whereas tacit knowledge can be characterized as intuition, the ‘know-feel’.

Sharing one’s ideas, images, thoughts, values, and concepts means sharing our tacit knowledge, and it’s the genuine essence of tacit knowledge that “we know more then we can tell”. This knowledge sharing will not take place on its own, it needs a so-called originating BA. Originating BA refers to the world in which individuals can share feelings, emotions, experiences, and mental models and there emerges care, love, trust and commitment. Only in a high-trust and feel-safe environment, people are willing to remove their communication barriers and empathize with others for the conversion and transfer to tacit knowledge. And this is exactly what happens that people in organizations experience when they share, do, experience, create, discuss, fight over, or are touched by Art. 

The results of my research implied that ABIs should have a place in every organization. ABIs can act as a dialogical and experience space for discussion in contexts with a high level of complexity and contradictions such as strategy finding and vision & mission statementParticipants in ABIs will experience a space for learning and deep reflections, which they usually don’t find in most of business environment.

Through the implementation of ABIs a space for free expression is created where participants feel safe and act on eye level. It is a time and place for each one to bring in and express their creativity. An ABI provides an interspace or space of possibility for critical reflectionsComplex reflections within a VUCA environment benefit from an ABI as its’ strength is more in questioning the traditional assumptions than in providing clearanswers.

We “all know more then we can tell”. Based on the findings of my research I would like to encourage all organization to look into the potential of ABIs to create a BA and provide the time and space to address the challenges of these complex times. In conducting ABIs, organizations can harness rich sources of knowledge and creativity.


Would you like to explore this potential for yourself and your organization?

I would be happy to talk to you soon.




Bennett, N., Lemoine G.J. (2014) What VUCA Really Means for YouHarvard Business Review,

Nonaka, I., Toyama, R., & Konno, N. (2000). SECI, Ba and leadership: A unified model of  dynamic knowledge creation. Long Range Planning33(1), 5–34. 

Polanyi, M. (1966). The Tacit Dimension. University of Chicago Press.

The academic tsunami by Uwe Jürgen Bauer

Acryl on canvas, 2020 Berlin

Academic Tsunami


The world is close to counting two years of a pandemic, which have been accompanied by economic pandemonium. The fragility of the globally interconnected economies has been exposed in so many different ways, it is hard to list them exhaustively. Supply chain bottlenecks, micro-chip shortages, lumber shortage, labour shortage. And then came the sledgehammer: energy. The 2020 crash in energy demand, and oil in particular, saw a strong rebound in 2021, despite continued restrictions on movements and activity. Oil prices rose back up, from having been negative for the first time in 2020. However, it was not the oil price as such that caused havoc. Intermittent renewable energy suddenly failed in September in Europe. Prices roofed accordingly. Gas prices followed as back-up systems needed to be put into service. Then the cascade effects started. Industrial producers using natural gas as a primary input saw their costs rise above sales prices. They reduced activity. Electricity suppliers who play the game of selling long and buying short found themselves illiquid and then insolvent. Bankruptcies ensued and government stepped in, trying to salvage the situation. The European countries import significant quantities of natural gas, especially from Russia. Long term purchase contracts have gradually been replaced by short-term purchases. A belief that the market will always be ready to supply, at low prices that is, turned out to be an ill-founded fairy tale. Industrial markets do not work that way. More and more, the term underinvestment has come to the foreground. Energy companies, and advisory agencies, are pointing out that years of low(er) investment have eaten away the capacity of the industry to deliver the physical goods required by the economies. That is a very inconvenient truth. Investment in energy infrastructure takes years to put in place and then requires consistent upkeep. This is the more so in depleting resources, such as oil and gas.

The recent data out of the OPEC+ countries show that several of the member countries are unable to supply their quotas. That is not for want of will, but for lack of capacity to produce. And it is a sure sign that the supply side of the market is struggling and will require substantial amounts of money to invest and reverse the current trend. Another sign of things to come is Mexico’s intent to reduce and even stop exporting crude oil. Domestic use is preferred.

Energy is back on the agenda, so much is clear. The stakeholder and societal pressure in the Western countries to rapidly move away from fossil fuels are starting to back-fire. Companies are being confronted by legal pressure to decarbonise, regulatory obligations and shareholder activism. The consequences are that the cost of energy will go up, and its supply may rise slower than demand.

The German minister for climate announced in mid-January that the country will need to reduce its energy consumption by 25-30% by 2030 to meet its climate goals. This is not a marginal adjustment to the economy. The country has invested considerably in renewables and requires gas and imports of nuclear to offset the shortfalls.

Shortfalls, as experienced over the past months and now announced effectively for years to come, are accompanied by high and rising prices. Energy prices feed through into food as well, given the role of energy in producing food. Natural gas that goes into fertiliser, diesel to run the engines of the machinery.

Energy is the base component of the economy. Threshold levels of what the economy can bear to spend on energy are estimated at around 10% of GDP before the economy moves into recession. If the dark supply-demand balance materialises, the current level of around 9% of global GDP can rise much higher. That will be required to achieve demand destruction, clearing out the least productive use of energy and stimulating investment in new supply.

The analytics behind the dynamics of the energy market are found in cross-over domains of economics and natural sciences. Fossil fuels are finite, even though elastic. That is reality. The 2021 discovery data for oil show that only 1 in 5 barrels of oil consumed were replaced by new discoveries. This is the worst result since before 1950. The process of consuming more than the world discovers has been ongoing since 1991 and accelerated from 2010 onwards. 80% of what has been discovered since 1950 has been consumed. Resource depletion is real. And the price of the resource is reflecting the increasing difficulties of providing what is required. And what is required in the end is a function of price. People will change their preferences as their budgets get squeezed. Companies will adapt their production processes as their margins become compressed or turn negative. Governments will have to follow in multiple ways. Windfall tax revenues from fossil fuels fill state coffers, which then needs to be used to subsidise consumers who struggle to pay for their daily needs. That too is already happening, also in Europe. Subsidies to renewables may need to be increased to expand the installed capacity and decisions need to be made with what constitutes green power, as the baseload needs to be secured. Nuclear is back on the agenda. And with that development, governments face another issue. Greening the energy complex lowers the tax take from vices, as the CO2 emissions fall. That will need a clever solution to replace the revenues that will be missed.

In the meantime, the economy is under pressure and the dynamics may lead to markets and individuals reacting faster to prices than the government can conceive and put in place long term plans.

The world we live in is suddenly speeding up, where factors that were deemed resolved by careful planning are taking their own path into partly unknown directions. Most of the developments have been clear to see for those who wanted to look without a bias. The creative destruction that appears underway will lead to a new configuration of the economy which nobody can describe in detail. There are too many moving parts and actors with different motives, as there have always been. But the medium-term process can be sketched. The timing of the changes might be harder.

This is the world we live in, part of the lyrics of the 1986 Genesis song Land of confusion

Land of Confusion, which can be listened to here: 



Most searches for leadership on the internet nowadays produce results that give a ‘how to’ list of how one can become a great leader. Unfortunately, leadership is not like cooking, where following a sequence of steps in a recipe results in delicious food, provided one has the basic skills for cooking. While ‘how to’ lists can occasionally serve an inspirational purpose, they do express some well-known and commonly accepted realities. The below points should be seen as subjective and a sample, and not as an ultimate and exhaustive collection of what could be:


Leadership is a lot (really a lot) of hard work.

Leaders need to keep themselves updated with the latest developments in their field and nowadays, due to the disruptive nature of the market, the latest developments in other fields too. This requires a lifelong commitment to studying supplemented by a lifelong commitment to acquiring new skills as simple as thumb texting on a cell-phone to applying complicated financial calculations and planning complicated processes and strategies.


Self-esteem is more important than self-confidence.

People usually find it easier to build their self-confidence than their self-esteem and, conflating one with the other, may end up with a long list of abilities and achievements. Rather than facing up to their imperfections and failures, they hide them behind their certificates and prizes. However, a long list of abilities and achievements is neither sufficient nor necessary for healthy self-esteem. While people keep on working on their list in the hope that it might one day be long enough, they try to fill the emptiness inside them with status, income, possessions, relationships, sex and so on. Achievements and intelligence are no substitute for wisdom.


Dialogue adds more value than discussions and certainly more than debates.

Dialogue shapes points of view by mutually reaching a common ground that could be closer to that of one of the participants. In dialogue, one submits one’s best thinking, expecting that other people’s reflections will help improve it rather than threaten it. In dialogue, one listens to understand, to make meaning and to find common ground. Discussions are less aggressive processes for discovering the truth than debates, where one aggressively defends assumptions as truth in order to ensure victory. They don’t achieve solutions as effectively as dialogue does, as the focus is on the flaws and differences of positions.


From time to time, conduct a personal SWOT and PEST analysis.

The world has been loaded with information that in most times is noise. Leaders need to be able to distinguish the signal from the noise in the information flood around them. This requires the ability to concentrate and focus on demand so that they can screen the information they receive for the gold nuggets of quality that are necessary for solving the problem or issue they are facing. When this isn’t enough, they need to be able to exercise their influence and engage their network of collaborators and affiliates to receive the added knowledge and expertise they miss.


Change is the norm.

The future will definitely pose challenges, but for today’s leaders. change in all forms is a reality. Change might include different geographical locations where a leader might have to engage, changes in job description, changes in outcomes like moving from success to failure and bouncing back, and changes of perspective, among others. In order to survive in such an environment, leaders need to be alert of present trends, to anticipate future ones, and to develop an adaptive mindset to easily assimilate the realities of situations while exercising critical thinking and insight.


Appreciate questions more than answers.

In a world that doesn’t change, answers are gold, but in a world that changes, existing answers will not work for new problems. Questions that help to focus attention and effort on the direction to follow in order to find solutions are more valuable. Questions invite a different and more powerful form of participation. It’s no longer just about spreading the word and persuading others – it’s about inviting others to explore a new domain and to help generate new ideas and insights. Leaders can become mobilizers, helping to draw in new people and creating environments where people can connect and explore an evolving agenda of questions. The most powerful networks would take the form of creation spaces that support the formation of tightly knit teams and then connect these teams in a broader space where they can seek out help from each other.


Copy and paste and paraphrase (ideas and best practices).

There is no need to re-invent the wheel. The competition is not about originality of ideas and leadership practices – it is about the organization’s growth in accordance to its vision and mission. Paraphrasing is critical here as what might work in one situation for one organization might need a certain amount of adaptation in order to work for another.


The normal distribution rules but does not dominate.

This is meant to mean that while cultures are different, people are different, etc., there are differences in behaviour and character within social and professional groups. This is also the truth about everything around us. Not everyone is smart and there is always someone smarter and more capable than us. If you are dealing with a conservative culture, it doesn’t mean that the person you are talking to is conservative. If you are dealing with a culture where discipline is valued, it doesn’t mean that the person you are working with is disciplined. In other words, reflect the opinion or perceptions of 68% of the population; there will still be a significant percentage of the population that doesn’t fit the stereotype (Figure 7.14).

Figure 7.14 The normal distribution of stereotypes


All decisions are influenced by emotions.

We are chemically based decision support systems, so the elementary/atomic blocks of our constitution are chemicals. Prominent among these are the neurotransmitters that regulate the communication between neurons in our brain and hormones that regulate our bodies. If any of these categories doesn’t work properly, we won’t be able to be successful in terms of our decision making. Both systems are interrelated as they affect each other, but one way to distinguish between the two is that neurotransmitters mediate the flow of information between neurons, while hormones mediate communication from out brain to our body cells. Excluding our genetic predisposition, which we currency cannot control, we need to be cautious of the effects of poor diet, stress and addictions (substance abuse and/or compulsive behaviour abuse) that can affect the levels of neurotransmitters and hormones and, as a result, our mental capability to properly process information communicated to our brain and body.


Being a good leader doesn’t mean you will continue to be a good leader.

Anyone can be a leader in the right circumstances with the right upbringing, the right mentoring, the right coaching, the right personality, the right training, the right education, the right skills, the right intelligence, the right wisdom, etc.

If you are not discouraged yet about the leader’s job description, go back to the first life hack, otherwise exit (humour sustains sanity even in the worst situations).