Going to the max

A recent article I read on medium told the story of how artist Paul Gaugain’s painting dramatically evolved over a short period as he left one mentor - Pissaro - and was inspired by another - Van Gogh - to develop his unique and groundbreaking style.

Two pictures painted a year apart of the same subject vividly show his evolution.


The change is clear, and striking.

Would Gauguin be a household name without this change in style? Or would he be just another artist within the wider community of impressionists?

The same lessons that creatives and artists can learn from his story are relevant for anyone looking at innovation and the future of their business.

Gaugain - as we all do - had a unique way of seeing the world. His change of scene and inspiration gave him the confidence to put that view on canvas. He invested in his difference, and showed the world his truth.

How can we put more of ourselves and our values into our business? How can we show what we value and believe in, and not just tell everyone?

He set himself free from the constraints of how other painters were doing things, and set out on his own path. He didn’t water it down, or hedge his bets to fit with the crowd, but went all out. Gaugain-max if you will.

Do you want to build a business like everyone else’s, or one that is true to you and your values? Are you willing to challenge the assumptions of “business as usual” and break boundaries?

He did things other artists weren’t doing. He wasn’t afraid to change, to experiment, and to fail. He looked to the edges of art at the time, and used it as a springboard for his own development. He kept pushing until he found an authentic way of expressing himself.

Do you spend enough time and energy looking at and learning from other organisations, across sectors and borders, to find lessons and opportunities you can try in your own work? Are you open-minded enough to see different possibilities? How can you step away from the middle of pack and push some boundaries in your market?

He discovered and celebrated his essence, what made him different, without compromise. He wasn’t afraid to stand out from other artists, to be seen as different. Indeed, it attracted attention, and ultimately earned him his place in art history.

We all know that it is the businesses and brands that stand out that we remember. They stand out because they are doing things differently, finding new and exciting problems to solve, or new ways of solving existing ones.

So, whatever your role, sector, or business, whether you consider yourself an artist or not, we can all learn from Gaugain’s journey, and challenge ourselves to build organisations true to us, and share them with the world.

Pick up the tools of your trade, and use them to create something new.