• There is no formalized practice of cross-industry collaboration between artists, designers and the corporate world.
  • Artists and designers can teach the skills needed in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.
  • Business and culture need to identify their differences to engage in effective cross-industry collaboration.

There is a fundamental disconnect between the business ecosystem and the cultural and creative sectors (CCS), right down to the artists and designers themselves. But cross-industry collaboration can provide a way for creatives to deliver innovative business skills and strategies that can prove invaluable in today’s turbulent world. As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, next-generation economies, and a more networked society, the current disconnect risks haemorrhaging high-value human capital that can be used to build such a future.

Businesses face challenges in a world of increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA), which they must overcome to survive and thrive. They must be equipped and prepared with the skills and abilities to do so. They should pursue differentiation strategies and production processes that will enable them to deliver innovative and aesthetically appealing products and services, to innovate and transform responsively at lower cost, and to engage in experimental innovation that leads to new results. The processes required are no different from those laid out in the CCS.

CCS was experiencing strong growth, but the shock waves of the COVID-19 pandemic had a catastrophic impact on these sectors. They were among the most affected; a recent report by UNESCO reports a total of 10 million jobs lost in these sectors worldwide in 2020. The shock was mainly felt in the performing arts (90% drop in the figure of business), music (76% drop in turnover) and visual arts (38% drop in turnover). Building back better and building collectively through business model innovation is therefore essential.

A formalized, professionalized and orchestrated cross-sector collaboration between artists, designers and the business world would respond to the issues and needs of the business and cultural sectors. This would drive business model innovation and provide a foundation to generate new skills that would enable businesses to thrive in the ever-changing VUCA world.

The artistic professions are steeped in VUCA due to the uncertainty of freelance working conditions in these sectors and the inherent risk-taking nature of the creative process. They can provide soft skills such as the ability to experiment, systems thinking, complex problem solving, and creative process mindset. These help to deal with situations characterized by VUCA by unlocking the potential for more multidimensional creative solutions. Our analysis revealed a striking match between the workforce skills that companies need to stay relevant in the future, and the skills and abilities that artists and designers can bring.

Cross-industry business model innovation has immense potential to unleash the power of creative thinking. But the differences between the beliefs, values, drives, language and ways of thinking and acting of different sectors must be fully understood and harmonized for this to succeed (although such differences can be experienced as a strength rather than discomfort). This is a prerequisite for establishing a culture of innovation resulting from intersectoral collaboration. Efforts have already been made in this area, but there appears to be a significant lack of effective orchestration of practice that creates common ground. In our next report on cross-sectoral collaboration, we have identified 15 important themes for this congruence:

Priority areas to facilitate intersectoral collaboration

Priority areas to facilitate intersectoral collaboration

Image: Artisans of Innovation

These themes provide a foundation for CCS and the business sector, at all levels, to develop a framework and innovation ecosystem for cross-sector collaboration and workforce skills development.

The development of professional skills is paramount in the corporate sector and among artists and designers to facilitate effective interaction between them. This includes fundamental aspects such as the ability to identify interface points between sectors; identify relevant contacts and roles; understand the nature of dialogue at different stages of the interface process; employ effective methods to engage in dialogue; and optimal times to interface and interact with artists and designers. Addressing these aspects in the development of professional skills is likely to increase the value of the interaction and move engagement beyond rhetoric and discourse.

Cross-sector barriers

CCS and the corporate sector are currently inhibited from effective cross-sector collaboration by existing belief systems and mindsets.

Artists open to using their skills and talents in other contexts need to be inspired by role models who have understood and successfully addressed the whys and hows of collaboration. There is currently a lack of visibility of these people to the community of practice and beyond. Meanwhile, on the business and industry side, there seems to be a lack of well-defined and easily accessible guidance for collaborating with artists and designers.

At the government level, better policy instruments would help facilitate cross-sectoral collaboration. For it to work effectively, it is essential that the orchestration of cross-sector collaboration is addressed at the policy level and through macro-level programs that facilitate practice at sector levels. We make 17 recommendations in this regard:

Policy recommendations to ensure better intersectoral collaboration

Policy recommendations to ensure better intersectoral collaboration

Image: Artisans of Innovation

The full potential of cross-sector collaboration is unknown to most, yet the opportunity is immense and the practice can bring about systemic change. A concerted effort and focus on this would add value to the field of work, and would also help strengthen CCS in economic and instrumental ways, such as creating new alternative labor markets for artists and designers who wish to adopt a hybrid approach in their profession. It would also help companies meet the challenges of the VUCA world by equipping them with the necessary human capital.