A start-up, a new product, setting a strategy: all acts of creativity and will against a blank canvas. Not in isolation, not perfect original idea. They’re art, built on relationships, medium and method, communication between all the players at the table.

Ben Shahn, in his 1957 Shape of Content lectures at Harvard University, covered ground of relationship as he talked about the process of creation in his art.

From the moment at which a painter begins to strike figures of color upon a surface he must become acutely sensitive to the feel, the textures, the light, the relationships which arise before him. At one point, he will hold the material according to an intention. At another he may yield intention – perhaps his whole concept – to emerging forms, to new implications within the painted surface. Idea itself – ideas, many ideas move back and forth across his mind at a constant traffic, dominated perhaps by larger currents and directions, by what he wants to think. Thus idea rises to the surface, grows, change as a painting grows and develops. So one must say that painting is both creative and responsive. It is an intimately communicative affair between the painter and his painting, a conversation back and forth, the painting telling the painter even as it receives its shape and form.

The creative process is the same in every sphere. Shahn’s theme applies as much to strategy and startups, to teams, to the relationship with and response to customers, as it does to painting.