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Upstart Co-Lab has partnered with Emergence Creative, a global creative agency dedicated to social impact, on a media campaign to shift perspectives of leaders in business, government and the social sector about how artists can contribute on teams, in partnerships and to investment portfolios.

The report, Great Minds Don’t Think Alike: Artists as Innovators in Business, Government and Society, defines Artist Innovators as artists who work outside the studio, the theater and the concert hall bringing their distinctive talents and skills into business, government and the social sector.

The report includes insights from individual interviews with prominent Artist Innovators such as cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and leaders from McKinsey & Company, Red Bull, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Opportunity and Impact

There has been growing recognition that cognitive diversity—differences in perception, judgment, and thinking style—is essential to maximizing the efficiency and problem-solving capacity of teams. In parallel, leaders across all fields have signaled that creativity—original ideas that are effective and useful—is the single most important factor for success.

A survey of employers found that 97% believe creativity is of increasing importance, yet 85% have difficulty finding qualified applications when filling creative positions.

Key Findings

The report includes compelling examples of Artist Innovators from history who have led breakthroughs in science, technology, engineering and government.

We present a framework of traits and tools that artists use, and that Artist Innovators bring to improve effectiveness, promote innovation, and drive financial and social value.

We also outline a set of perceptions about Art, Artists, Return on Investment, and Implementation that must be addressed in any successful campaign.


Artist Innovators’ human-centered perspective, distinctive traits and problem-solving tools can help leaders meet their goals. We will not fully realize the potential benefits of creativity and cognitive diversity until leaders in business, government, and the social sector systematically and deliberately seek out the “Olympic athletes” of creativity: Artist Innovators.