Creative thinking, innovation & empathy: art’s transformative impact

Paul Becker
5 min readFeb 25, 2024


Isn’t the arts just a rich persons plaything? Looking fancy at the opera? Spending up big at the auctions for status?

I deplore this stereotype of art & culture and believe it’s holding back our society, let alone artists and the industry.

I truly believe that more art, and more artists, in the world makes it a better, smarter place.

I have two core philosophies around this way of thinking.

  1. Creative thinking and problem solving

2. Empathy

with apologies to the artist, whom I cannot find to credit

Creative thinking and problem solving.

In a world where jobs and industries will soon be redefined by AI, the ability to think independently, to come up with creative solutions and solve problems in a unique human way will define the next generation of successful people and businesses. The world needs more creative thinkers and those who expose themselves to art and the arts, who foster that part of their brain that nurtures curiosity and outside the box thinking, are fast tracking essential life skills.

It’s why companies like Apple & Google seek people with broader thinking, and why universities are setting up degree courses like the intentionally named Bachelor of Creative Intelligence & Innovation.

Tim Cook says Apple “typically seeks out employees with four shared skills: the ability to collaborate, creativity, curiosity and expertise”. With it’s deep nurturing of curiosity and creativity, I can’t think of a better place to find that combination of skills than those who are engaged with the arts.

An innovation economyposits knowledge, entrepreneurship, innovation, technology and collaboration are the key drivers of economic growth”. With change the only constant, engagement with the arts helps challenge our thinking and future proof our skillset.

I talk about building a sustainable creative economy for the art world. Because I think it’s vital to link the creative and innovative output of art and artists, to a strong, enduring business model. A healthy art ecosystem not only supports itself, ensuring sustainability and growth, it contributes to the kind of innovation, creativity and problem solving that the world demands right now.

Steve Jobs talked about the magical intersection of humanities and science, and the influence of artists.

“Edwin Land of Polaroid talked about the intersection of the humanities and science. I like that intersection. There’s something magical about that place.

There are a lot of people innovating, and that’s not the main distinction of my career. The reason Apple resonates with people is that there’s a deep current of humanity in our innovation.

I think great artists and great engineers are similar, in that they both have a desire to express themselves. In fact some of the best people working on the original Mac were poets and musicians on the side.

In the seventies computers became a way for people to express their creativity. Great artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were also great at science. Michelangelo knew a lot about how to quarry stone, not just how to be a sculptor.

I was surprised to hear (via Adriane Schwager) Satya Nadella, visionary CEO of Microsoft (a leader in AI) sharing in his book “Hit Refresh”

“Empathy makes you a better innovator. If I look at the most successful products we [Microsoft] have created, at their core, they have come about because of a deep empathy for the people we’re trying to serve.”

Which allows me to segue nicely to my next point, the power of empathy, and that by understanding different points of view, which art and the arts innately deliver, the world will be a better place.

Caroline Zilinsky; Too Long; Didn’t Read (Universal Declaration of Human Rights); 2023


Empathy is literally “the ability to take on another’s perspective”.

Every time I look at a work of art, I’m thinking about what the artist is saying, how I think and feel about the work, how it challenges (or doesn’t) my own world view and if so what needs changing. Imagine if our political leaders brought that perspective to their decision making. I do despair at man’s continued inhumanity to man (and yes they are mostly men). I despair that history repeats in the most terrible ways, that we don’t learn from our past, and a big part of that is a lack or empathy or being able to see things from another’s perspective.

Will having more people engaged with art, and seeing things from other viewpoints stop people killing each other tomorrow? No.

I’d like to think though, that like other big issues society grapples with, over time it will help shift our collective consciousness to a more empathetic, understanding view of the world. The frustratingly slow yet critically important changes in society’s views on everything from environmental consciousness to gender equality, to same sex relationships and civil rights, is testament that change for good can be positively influenced.

And doesn’t the world need more empathy and understanding right now!

“How does it work? How does culture do its thing? The shortest answer is that culture teaches us how to see.”

How to Save a Sad, Lonely, Angry and Mean Society

I loved this opinion piece by David Brooks in the New York Times, who articulates far better than I how art and culture can help build the kind of society we want to live in.

“…gradually we acquire more expansive ways of seeing the world.

…I’m convinced that consuming culture furnishes your mind with emotional knowledge and wisdom; it helps you take a richer and more meaningful view of your own experiences; it helps you understand, at least a bit, the depths of what’s going on in the people right around you.

How does it work? How does culture do its thing? The shortest answer is that culture teaches us how to see.”

I’m not originally from the ‘art world’. I think that’s given me some perspective on it.

And why I hate when arts people are snobbish about anyone with less artistic or cultural knowledge, and who use the word ‘important’ to describe everything in their world.

Yes the arts are important. Not because we think so, or because our pursuits are beautiful, or worthy. We are part of life’s journey and shame on us if we don’t rise to the challenge and opportunity of contributing our immense collective talents to contribute to a better world.

Because the world can be a better, smarter, more beautiful and sustainable place. The kind of society I’d like to live in.

And more art in the world, more artists with their different ways of seeing, will help us get there.

Related: As a founder, I increasingly believe that artists and entrepreneurs are ‘not so different’

Thanks: to Suzanne Huber, my new writing accountability partner

How I’m trying to build a better (art) world:

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Paul Becker

Art entrepreneur, passionate about culture change, making art more accessible & building a sustainable creative economy. Australian Founder & CEO of Art Money.