A Workplace Renaissance

A Workplace Renaissance

By: Jill Mendoza In a recent trip to the beautiful Tuscan city of Florence I was reminded of my college Art History class where we talked a lot about the Renaissance period which literally translates as “rebirth”. In fact the true birthplace of the Renaissance was said to be Florence Italy. During this period two ideas took root; the concept of man’s importance was reborn and Greek and Roman ideas were being introduced back into society thus increasing a desire to acquire more knowledge, in the fields of science, literature and art. The Renaissance put knowledge at the heart of value creation, which took place in the workshops of artisans, craftsmen, and artists. Unlike today, these disciplines never worked alone. The production of art, which was largely done to make a profit and not used as a creative outlet, took place in humble establishments that were called Botteghe’s. The artistic ventures that took place were “co-operative, organized and efficient, with all the members of the Bottega “team” working together to achieve a common goal and to satisfy the needs of society. After all, art wasn’t a luxury, and although it was deemed beautiful, one of its main goals was to be useful.  These 15th century Florentine workshops, may very well be the birth of what we now call collaborative workspaces. They were communities of creativity and innovation where dreams, passions, and projects could intertwine. What can those who want to create more innovative and collaborative workplaces today — whether that’s a better office in a traditional organization, a co-working space, a startup incubator, or a fab lab — learn from the workshops of the Renaissance? The bottegas’ three major selling points were turning ideas into action, fostering dialogue, and facilitating the convergence of art and science. The innovative lessons that emerged from this period are perhaps as relevant and valuable today as they were 500 years ago. Here are a few of them: Talent needs patronage Mentors matter Potential trumps experience Disaster creates opportunities Embrace competition Seek out and synthesize ideas Eric Weiner is a former foreign correspondent for NPR and the author of The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places, from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley and in his January 25th, 2016 HBR article on Innovation, Mr. Weiner eloquently provides a backstory about these valuable lessons. For example, during the Renaissance nature was seen as a convergence of art and science, as in the famous “Cupola del Duomo” seen in the two bottom photos. Although it took two centuries for this cathedral in the heart of Florence Italy to be deemed finished, Filippo Brunelleschi’s dome which dominates the exterior, was a magnificent example of Architectural and Engineering innovation. Add the biggest artwork which can be seen within the cathedral by Giorgio Vasari’s “the Last Judgment (1572-9) and his less-talented student Frederico Zuccari and you have a perfect example of this convergence known as the Renaissance. Many of today’s most exciting business opportunities that have proved to be similar meetings of technological advances and aesthetic beauty. Take for example the iphone, Teslas, or Frank Gehry’s Bilbao, all came to be by fostering mutual learning through experiments that lead to business opportunities. Whether you are running a co-working space or trying to get your own organization to be more creative and collaborative, think about how you might be able to apply the lessons learned from the Renaissance in your own workplace. Top PhotoIs Michelangelo Buonarroti’s Doni Tondo (1507) (Holy Family with the infant St. John the Baptist) Taken in the Uffizi Gallery museum, one of the world’s most important museums located in the heart of Florence, Italy. This is one of the only known paintings of Michelangelo and the first to break with the convention of showing Christ on the Virgin’s lap, inspired Mannerist artists through its expressive handling of color and posture. Middle PhotoDuomo by Brunelleschi, finished in 1463, was the largest of its time to be built without scaffolding.   The domes outer shell is supported by a thicker inner shell that acts as a platform for it.One of Florence’s most famous symbols. Bottom Photo – The Last Judgment frescoes located in the interior of the orange-tiled dome.  The work was started by Vasari and completed by Zuccari. (1572-4)  

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