This past May, the great environmental artist who was known only as Christo passed away at 84. Along with Jean-Claude, his wife and collaborator of 50 years, Christo redefined what art could be in terms of both scope and grandeur. Often working with brightly colored, flowing fabrics, the pair wrapped structures and transformed landscapes across the world. Christo transformed the everyday ordinary into something different, something new. As the arts are reputed to improve the physical and mental health of people who engage with them, it could be said that Christo, through his work, brought better health to the world.
In many ways, his work was art for art’s sake as much as it was for everyone to enjoy, albeit briefly. The installations he created, sometimes decades in the making would often be exhibited for a short while. In the most extreme cases, as with “The Gates” in Central Park or the Reichstag (which took 20 years to plan and realize), as short as two weeks. The brevity of these artworks and the seeming imbalance between the time of display and years of resources allocated for preparation mystified some. But for literally millions of others, his work was astonishing and unforgettable. By sharing his vision with the world he effectively reframed what was possible and provided people a new lens through which to view not only a building, a ,or a bridge, but perhaps possibility itself.
What does this mean to us?
As Christo upended his world, challenging it with what art could be, COVID-19 has turned our world inside out, challenging us to reassess everything we know from the personal through the professional. Identifying the right thing to do today is confusing at best and mired in uncertainty at worst.
A recent McKinsey survey showed that the vast majority of executives expect the fallout from COVID-19 to fundamentally change the way they do business over the next five years; more than three-quarters of the same sample believe that this will create significant new opportunities for growth. For employers to lay hold of those opportunities though will take far more than just being able to identify them, it will take innovation to make the most out of them.
Many of our organizations are still adjusting to the tail-end of this coronavirus wave. Many are trying to find the right balance between optimism and realism as we head into the future.
As we pass through this unprecedented time, we must continue to be nimble and challenge ourselves to innovate; to look at what is possible through a new lens. Relying on old frameworks and methodologies to solve our new problems will not allow us to capture new opportunities.
The challenges we’re facing should, therefore, be constantly reframed to make certain that we’re not missing anything; going so far as to be certain about exactly what we are missing in terms of knowledge, and resources. It is through these and other similar reframes that we will better ready ourselves for what comes next.
Our lives, the lives of our employees, and the way we’re doing business continue to be disrupted. But that disruption is also offering us plenty of space for growth and change. Although no one knows the future, it is our responsibility as leaders to plan for it. Thus far, we have cautiously weathered the storm, revising our budgets, re-evaluating our initiatives, and adapting our organizations to flow with the shifting landscape.
Innovation, especially in the face of crisis, is not something so lofty as an aspiration. Instead, it is hard work and an imperative for growth. With the chance to forge something different standing right in front of us, it may take only the slightest shift in perspective to notice it; to identify that something new may change everything just around the corner.
Perhaps to capture it, we need only adjust our lens.