Art Thinking | Amy Whitaker

Summary of: Art Thinking: How to Carve Out Creative Space in a World of Schedules, Budgets, and Bosses
By: Amy Whitaker

Art Thinking

Art thinking involves shifting focus from SMART targets to identifying a project’s Major Dramatic Question (MDQ), which serves as a lighthouse question that guides you forward in life and work. This MDQ is not merely the plot question, but something much deeper and more personal. To discover your true interests and values, ask questions like “If money were no object, what would you do?” or “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” By building your own metaphor, you become original and authentic by adding together areas that interest you and becoming larger than the sum of your parts.


Welcome to the world of ‘Art Thinking’, where creativity and business strategy walk hand in hand. In Amy Whitaker’s pivotal book, she introduces the concept of ‘inventing point B’ as a tool for combining the adventurous mindset of an artist with the practical tools of the business world. The summary explores how art thinking can transform your approach in any field, using the multidimensional energy distribution found in elite athletes as an analogy. We are presented with a fresh mindset that encourages vulnerability, adopting mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical energies in the creative process while maintaining financial stability. Get ready to explore the world of art thinking and learn how to bridge the gap between creativity and business.

Art Thinking: MBA-MFA Perspective

Art thinking refers to the partnership between art and business, where art provides a guide for the process, and business gives structure and organization for creativity to operate. Businesses need to create something new in the world to change it, and this is where art thinking comes in – combining the creative exploration of “inventing point B” with the tools of business. This approach, known as MBA-MFA thinking, is essential for long-term business success. It’s challenging to carve out space for it due to short-term performance pressure. Art thinking enables individuals to move forward in any field with a creative mindset and business tools.

The Power of Full Engagement

In their book The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz explore the four types of energy: mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical. Elite athletes utilize all four energy sources, allowing each one to rest. The authors also introduced the concept of “art thinking,” a framework to facilitate inquiry and creativity. Resting and setting aside time for discovery aids in generating new ideas. The book encourages readers to explore creative work in different domains such as storytelling, rhythm, and cadence. A wide view of work can help establish guideposts and benchmarks that boost productivity.

Overcoming Uncertainty

In “Being in the Weeds,” the author discusses the challenges of being stuck in the middle of a project without a solution. Our perception of others’ completed work is biased as we overlook the uncertainty they too navigate. To overcome this, we must use mindful practices such as embracing discernment instead of judgment. The author recommends defining a “grace period” before demanding answers and focusing on the process rather than completion. This helps explore new ideas and creative risk-taking, leading to better outcomes.

Creative Pursuits and Financial Planning

Pursuing creative projects while ensuring financial stability can be a challenging balance to strike. This book emphasizes the importance of portfolio thinking and ownership stakes in creating a successful financial ecosystem. By establishing an income and investment portfolio, individuals can invest in their work, align their risks with their rewards, and make smart financial decisions. Additionally, the author emphasizes the value of observation over quick judgment, inviting people into different fields, and incorporating a balance of “dogs, cash cows, questions, and stars” in one’s life skills. By following these guidelines, individuals can pursue their creative passions while maintaining financial stability.

Managing Creative Projects

Being a manager of creative projects can be challenging, as it requires balancing the vulnerability that comes with creative work with the need to meet goals and expectations within an organizational structure. The concept of the “good enough manager,” inspired by the “good enough mother” theory of Donald Woods Winnicott, can help manage the creative process. Google’s Project Oxygen identified eight characteristics of effective managers that align with this approach. The manager of a creative project should allow time for exploration and discovery, and can take on the roles of guide, colleague-friend, or producer. Pitfalls of creative work include excessive monitoring, hiding behind the formlessness of creative processes, and past success leading to a lack of resilience. Overall, the key to success in managing creative projects is finding a balance between nurturing the vulnerability of creative work and meeting organizational goals and expectations.

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