On Art and Business

The artist Hiroshi Okano and I participated as panelists at an event organized by the Group for Thinking about Art and Business on June 3, 2004. I wanted to write a column about it while my impressions were still fresh in my mind, so I got out of bed and I'm now in front of my computer.

This is a volunteer group led by two GLOBIS students that was set up in 2004 with the aim of having Japan's future business leaders gain a deeper appreciation of art.

The first session was a lecture by an amateur art collector Katsuhiko Yamamoto of Aioi Sompo. Mr. Hiroshi Okano had been invited to the second session, which was held yesterday.

Here is the event schedule organized by the Group for Thinking about Art and Business.

Part 1: 19:00-19:30 Video presentation, "World of Beauty: Hiroshi Okano" (Nippon Television, 1999)
Part 2: 19:30-20:30 Dialogue—Mr. Hiroshi Okano and Yoshito Hori
Part 3: Private showing of Mr. Hiroshi Okano's works displayed at GLOBIS

This was how the event went. Lots of people came, and you could feel the intense level of interest. I'll be the first to admit that I've got nothing in my background that would enable me to talk about painting. My art grades at school were always like 2 or 3 out of 5.   

I think that was because I was a bit of a dunce in this area, so I had serious reservations about participating in a panel discussion—given this background—with an artist. The matter had already been decided, however, so I just had to go along.

Prior to the event I asked someone with a deep knowledge of art to prepare a list of questions for me, and I brought the list, all ready to go, with me on the day of the panel discussion.

The opening video explored how Mr. Okano had got into painting, the influence of other artists' work on him, and the reason he had gone to study abroad in France—all clearly  presented, followed by a neat summing up of the events leading to the opening of his own exhibition. There were even scenes of him painting in his studio, including an explanation of his state of mind while he is painting; this was fascinating. The problem was that the video covered most of the questions I had prepared to ask Mr. Okano, which left me wondering what to do… :->

When the video finished, the MC introduced me and the discussion began. I had hurriedly decided at the last minute to have Mr. Yoshihiko Noro, the president of the Ginza Yanagi Gallery, join us on stage as a panelist, with me serving as the moderator.

There were comments and questions from collectors and others in the audience. The session proceeded, the atmosphere was friendly, and I myself learned a great deal (Essentially I don't know if it's good for the moderator to be learning so much, but I really did learn a lot at this session).

Here's a little of what Mr. Okano said during the first and second sessions that really impressed me:

"The most important element of painting is vitality."

"Paint with the rhythm of your whole body. Paint in one motion so that none of your feeling slips away."

"Trust your own intuition in choosing colors."

"I like paintings of farms that melt into nature."

"You have to be patient to appreciate a good painting. At first, they can seem impossible to understand."

The most fascinating comment of all was, "The job of a painter is to paint what you feel in the moment." Mr. Okano cherishes impressions of colors captured in his mind, which he then recreates and transfers directly onto the canvas in a single stroke.

"Actually, technique is not that important; you can always improve your technique by taking lessons. Consequently, painting is about feeling rather than technique and about directly expressing what inspired you, in a way that is true to yourself." This is what he emphasized.

In the course of the discussion, I did talk a bit about business. (I can't really talk about art, but I am very happy to talk about business.)

"In fact, art is important in business. At GLOBIS we teach business administration, but simply acquiring knowledge about management doesn't mean you will understand how to put it into practice. It's more important to be able to "paint" a vision, management principles, leadership and the organizational culture. The vital components that make up these factors are a sense of excitement and passion. This passion moves us to "paint" a vision, become the source of energy for leading others, and nurtures an organizational culture.

I continued.

"In management, the expression, "painting a picture," is often used in the sense of creating a vision for the future. I believe this is like standing before a blank canvas and freely painting a picture, just like an artist. The more inspiring this painting or vision is, the more it will strike a chord in people's hearts, which means more people will want to join in what you are doing, and as a result, I think, the painting or vision will find its completion."

This is genuinely what I believe.

I'll include here a phrase that was featured in the afterword of a book I wrote in 1994, The Case-Method Approach to Strategic Entrepreneurship (Nikkei BP).

"Entrepreneurship is a dream, an art and a science and, at the same time, it is an extremely primal human process."

Business begins with a dream. This dream is then constructed using science, and then raised up to the level of art. That is, it is like painting a picture. This picture is shared with many people, and from the resulting interaction of fellow humans, a business is created. This is what I believe.

The art that Mr. Okano has defined is certainly about "expressing your feelings exactly as they are." Business, then, in the same way as art, requires the following elements, wouldn't you agree?

"Feel genuinely moved" and then "express boldly."

Therefore, I suppose businesspeople must have the ability to be moved and also the artistic temperament for openly and sincerely expressing these feelings in one form or another.

With this on my mind, I made my way to the post-session party.

At the party, Mr. Okano and his wife, collectors and the owners of the gallery got together and delved more deeply into our discussion about art. We talked about what beauty is, and this led into analyzing and exchanging opinions about the evolution of Mr. Okano's paintings, then into classical music—all sorts of topics. Mr. Okano grinned from start to finish, and beamed warmly as he listened to the discussion.

I returned home and took a moment to carefully look again at Mr. Okano's paintings. And in the evening of the following day, on arriving at my mountain lodge in Karuizawa I gazed at his paintings again, one at a time. I recalled Mr. Okano's words regarding "vitality," "boldly expressing one's feelings," and "trusting your own intuitions about color."

Then, in the stillness, I basked for a while in the emotions that were welling up within me.

Mr. Yoshito Hori established GLOBIS Management School in 1992 and GLOBIS Capital Partners in 1996. In 2003, GLOBIS started its original MBA program which, in 2006, received accreditation from the Japanese Ministry of Education and gained “university” status. GLOBIS started a part-time MBA program in English in 2009 and a full-time MBA program in English in 2012.

A Harvard MBA graduate and former Sumitomo Corporation employee, Mr. Hori founded the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Japan Chapter in 1995 and became the first board member from Asia in charge of Asia Pacific region in 1996. He also served on the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s New Asian Leaders Executive Committee and Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership, as well as the Harvard Business School Alumni Board from 2005 to 2008. Currently, Mr. Hori is a board member of the Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), and serves as co-chair of WEF’s Global Growth Companies.

In 2008, he launched the G1 Summit – a Japanese version of the WEF’s annual Davos forum. This led to the foundation of G1 Summit Institute in 2013, which Mr. Hori serves as Representative Director.

Just days after a huge earthquake struck northeast Japan in March 2011, Mr. Hori launched Project KIBOW to support the rebuilding of the disaster-affected areas. The following year Project KIBOW was incorporated as the KIBOW Foundation, which Mr. Hori serves as Representative Director.

An avid enthusiast of the Japanese game Go since age 40, Mr. Hori has been Director of the Nihon Ki-in (Japan Go Association) since June 2013.

Since October 2013, Mr. Hori has hosted a weekly TV program in Japan called Nippon Mirai Kaigi (Japan Future Conference). He has authored several books including Visionary Leaders who Create and Innovate Societies, Six Dimensions of Life, and My Personal Mission Statement.

Mr. Hori received his BS in Engineering from Kyoto University and his MBA from Harvard Business School.

He is an avid swimmer and enjoys spending time with his family, especially his five sons.

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