Picasso’s hands, 1971

Art can teach us a great deal about life, passions and humanity. But what about entrepreneurship? Can we associate art concepts and “port” them into a completely different domain, like business? It looks like a long shot. However, I was walking in an exhibition a while ago in Italy and while immersed in the usual thoughts about work, I came up to the conclusion that analogies do indeed exist.

Here below I share my findings.

‘Woman in an Armchair’, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919)
  1. Look outside the canvas. “Staying focused” is at the top of the mantra list of every entrepreneur. However, if you bring that to the extreme, you lose perspective because you get confined in one context (the canvas). Instead, looking outside the canvas brings a fresh state of mind, where problems — and especially solutions — look different.

Do as Renoir did with the lady in ‘Woman in an Armchair’: think as if the boundaries are simply not there. Place your sight outside the canvas, ignore it and see what’s out there.

2. Make it by faking it.

Start-ups do it all the time… it is not cheating, it is not dreaming with the customers, it is just putting the clock forward a bit . Pretending that something exists when actually there’s nothing, is a classic technique to validate your hypothesis and to avoid wasting your time and money. While not everyone agrees that it is the best strategy, sometimes it is the only option you have left. Look at this Monet below. The artist makes heavy use of white and yellow around the flowers to give the impression of light even if those specific colors have nothing to do with the colours of the gladioli.

Gladioli, Claude Monet, Oil on canvas (1876)

3. Simplify and get to the essential point. You have limited resources, both in time and money, what do you do?

Take a problem or a solution, take the dominant part of it and remove all the rest. You win by focussing on the essential part, that still describes the problem or the solution.

Modigliani removes irises from his characters to help you focus on other important traits such as the lips, cheeks and nose. By simplifying the pattern, Modigliani let you discover the beauty and the balance of human figures.

Boy’s portrait — Modigliani

4. Decompose analytically. Decompose a problem by keeping all the parts in front of your at the same time, like the different views of the face in the Picasso below. Yes, this is hard.. but a dragonfly vision is essential to take complex decisions in fast-evolving situations.

Seated Woman, Pablo Picasso (1937)

5. Port concepts x-domains. By using bits of photos and newspapers in his works, Georges Braques teaches us a very precious lesson: look at solutions in a specific domain, understand them deeply, and adapt them to fit your problem: you might find an unexpected solution that works better than anything else!

‘Papiers Collés II’, Georges Braque


While it is nice to acknowledge this similarities how can we remind these fundamental lessons while being dragged into the daily madness?

My conjecture is that it is easier to put in practice our lesson learned if we associate them to a painting embodying that concept. Try it yourself and let me know! I will do the same.



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