We have a running joke in our household: one of us comes up with a really good idea; the other says, "hey, good idea!" And the first responds with a deadpan, "I'm full of good ideas."

If you didn't laugh, you're not an artist.

According to a story in the NYTimes today:

Now the master of fine arts, or M.F.A., ... “is the new M.B.A.”
Okay, that's not "according to the Times" but according to a Mr. Daniel Pink, who wrote "A Whole New Mind" (2005) -- a book which apparently promoted the benefits of right-brain thinking. But the Times story tells us that right-brain thinking is now the rage in the corporate world:

...When General Motors hired Robert A. Lutz in 2001 to whip its product development into shape, he told The New York Times about his new approach. “It’s more right brain. It’s more creative,” he said.

“I see us as being in the art business,” he said, “art, entertainment and mobile sculpture, which, coincidentally, also happens to provide transportation.”

When a car company like G.M. is in the art business, every company in any other industry is, too.

The argument here is that the "left brain" functions can all be done by computer or by "Asian person" (yes, the article does really say that) more cheaply and more efficiently, leaving the creative work behind for the Americans. Corporations are therefore hiring "right-brain gurus" to come in and teach their employees how to draw:
The list of companies Mr. Bomeisler has worked with is a Who’s Who of the Fortune 500. “That corny phrase ‘thinking outside the box,’ that’s what I do for corporations,” he says. “In teaching them how to draw, I’m teaching them an entirely new way to see. They unbox their minds and absorb what’s really there, with all of the complexity and beauty. One of the common phrases that students use afterward is that the world appears to be so much richer."
What are they drawing pictures of? And how is this helping?
During a two-day workshop with Halliburton Energy Services, Mr. Bomeisler watched as a team’s drawings slowly revealed an obvious solution to a longstanding problem. Team members realized from drawing that they had been enjoying their special status as a task force and had become so fascinated with the problem before them that they were in no hurry to solve it. This was resolved after management set a strict deadline and promised the group equally intriguing problems in the future.
I repeat myself: what are they drawing pictures of? And how is this helping?

Not that I should complain. If I were just a bit more devious and a lot more materialistic I might start selling myself to corporations and demanding a hefty fee to collect their employees at a Zen garden to model a phallus from clay and develop detailed opinions on fabric patterns. But, sadly, I'm not that woman.

Instead, I log onto a blog and offer them free advice from a genuine "big picture" brain: the problem is not that your employees are using the "wrong hemisphere." The problem is that your employees are living in the world YOU created, a world that gloms onto bandwagons (like this one) and brings in snakeoil speakers to indoctrinate, hassle, and annoy them instead of treating them like intelligent individuals. The problem with that Halliburton group wasn't that they'd enjoyed their task force's "status" too much -- it's that their day-to-day jobs are soul-sucking black holes into which all joy and meaning disappear. If spending the afternoon drawing pictures cures a few ills, it's because it temporarily releases them from the monotony of a slow death.

You want big picture? You want art? That's going to have your company go the way of green tech and industries that use waste as raw material. Mine the central Pacific garbage flotilla. Engineer bacteria that eat the Viagra residue in our piss, and keep it out of our rivers. Integrate new cultures and perspectives into your company -- for real, not just at some hoodoo seminar -- putting primacy on bringing happiness to a great number of humans, not profits to your shareholders -- on serving, not fleecing, the public. I could go on, but why bother? These cockmongers don't really care about their employees' brains. They'd grind their employees' brains into stew if that would inflate their stock price. This is just the new fad that this frightened herd of mind-bogglingly UN-original thinkers will follow until the next stupid fad comes along.

And the only ones getting fat are the inspirational speakers.

People have long tried to justify art in economic terms. What good is art? they say. It doesn't get you anywhere. It doesn't make money. Defenders of art try to explain how learning about literature or music or art can possibly help you make money: it improves your math skills, or gives you things to talk about at business meetings. But no one ever asks: what good is it making all that money? It doesn't get you anywhere. It doesn't make you happy. And it's not worth a thing until it does.

Big Picture: The goal is human happiness. Money might get you there in the long run, but art and love and beauty bring you to it in the here and now. If the corporations care about the "big picture," they've got some mission statements to re-write.

(This message brought to you by a lively right-brain/left-brain anarcho-communist collective.)

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