Work-Free Sundays: Why You Should Be Collaborating Like an Impressionist Painter

Living in DC has its benefits. One of my favorites is the exposure to incredible works of art … for FREE.

This weekend I had the opportunity to visit the Degas Cassatt exhibit at the National Museum of Art. If you are in DC, you have got to GO SEE THIS! Do yourself a favor and spend the $5 for the audio tour to really get the most out of the experience.

It’s really incredible to see how a relationship with another can impact your work; I was intentionally going to this exhibit as part of my “Work-Free Sunday” experiment and immediately had hundreds of takeaways for work (go figure). I will not bore your with the hundreds, but here are the top five takeaways.

1. If you find someone that inspires you, challenges you, and pushes you … collaborate with them.

Degas and Cassatt worked closely, consulting on each other’s works and sometimes even coproduced.

Collaboration only makes you better, and this is especially true if you can find a way to collaborate with your competitors. You can get the ball rolling on this by coordinating scheduled debates or problem solving sessions.

If the person who inspires you is a vendor partner, see if you can experiment or do a case study with them. Everyone benefits through the collaboration of talents, especially (and most importantly) your customer!

2. Experiment with different mediums.

Not every technology is going to be perfect for marketing and not every campaign is going to go viral, but if you’re not experimenting, you’ll never know what works and what doesn’t.

Typically, by the time you’re reading about it in an industry magazine, the space is already too crowded.

Degas would mix chalk and pastel and metallic together. Some critics hated it and tore apart this approach; others saw that this technique would be heralded in the future. Cassatt was encouraged by Degas to experiment with prints. She didn’t initially love the process she first experimented with, but later in her career produced gorgeous flat block prints.

You never know how one thing that feels like a misstep will lead to your greatest work.

3. Support your friends and associates.

Degas owned over 100 of Cassatt’s works in his collection. He didn’t just pay her lip service and tell her the works were good, he put his money where his mouth was and championed her pieces by purchasing them or trading works of art.

Take a moment to reflect on how good it feels when a friend supports you, then get out there and do that for someone else. I know we can’t go rent an apartment at every community that opens, but we can support the open houses and maybe even help sponsor a resident event.

If you’re the property manager, why not pilot a vendor friend’s product? Sometimes it totally fails (like you knew it would!) but this type of result affords the opportunity to provide critical feedback with the real data that we are all starving for!

Then again … maybe, just maybe, it will totally surprise you and work better than you ever imagined. As a result, you’ll surely be due some good karma and you’ll look like a rock star in your boss’s eyes. BONUS!

4. Be curious and celebrate every stage of the process … even the error.

So I already told you Degas owned hundreds of Cassatt’s works. One of his favorite collections was a series of states leading up to a final print of The Visitor, including one print that was clearly an error. The ink is smudged and blurry, but it was part of the process.

This is where I think we need to really dig in.

I think sometimes we get stuck on the big picture and final results because, after all, we are busy people! But when we really dissect a campaign or execution of an idea, that’s when we can really understand the success or failure of our work.

Sometimes it has nothing to do with the idea itself, but rather a step that was missed during the planning that can make the difference between success and failure. Understanding and dissecting those flaws allow us to appreciate the success and excellent results even more.

5. Rework your work until you are happy.

The Fallen JockeyOne of my favorite pieces of Degas work in this exhibit is Scene from the Steeple Chase: The Fallen Jockey.

I actually do not like looking at the work; it depicts a pretty gruesome scene. What I love is that Degas worked and reworked this painting over a thirty-year period. He originally painted it in 1866, reworked it in 1881 and again in 1897.

If you look closely, you can actually see where a horse used to be that Degas ended up repositioning. He left evidence behind that he could have easily concealed. He was okay with his change of heart and unapologetic about it; it is right there for you to discover if you are searching for it.

There are a million lessons that I could take away from this painting alone, but I will leave it at this: Whatever your passion is, whatever you choose as your life work, do it the way you know to be the best. If your definition of that changes, don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong, modify your approach and improve your work going forward.

Everyone will benefit from that, especially your customers.

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