Could Food and Art Actually Improve Business Culture and Productivity?

By Chris Sheppardson at EP Innovates 

Food is integral to culture.  Over recent years we have observed the increasing fascination of our love affair with food and most recently the demand for fresh, local produce and greater nutritional value.  But there has also been a renaissance with art too and as a combination, food and art have become a powerful partnership. The question is, if food and art are so closely linked to culture, can businesses build more engaged teams and potentially improve employee motivation and productivity simply through this connection we have with our taste and ‘visual’ experience?

Our love of food and art is part of a natural progression that has developed to allow this to happen. Much of the research we read points to the fact that our daily lives are becoming more and more dominated by technology. Whether for business, communications or for social reasons, business life today does lack any real human creativity because of its reliance on technology. There is a growing school of thought that argues that a “process tyranny” is beginning to ruin work life and drive talent away from the workplace.

Our working days are more controlled than ever

There is no doubt that the balance between people and work life is becoming increased strained and there is a story to be told.  We know that only 11% of the workforce feel really engaged in their work (according to Gallup), there are also a growing number of people suffering from mental health issues and depression.  The rising gig economy also paints a picture as more people are choosing to opt out of corporate life and go it alone in business.

The irony is, many argued that advances in technology would actually free up the workplace and yet most people’s days are now more controlled than they ever were.  Few executives feel that there is a strong external focus and many would agree that thinking in the workplace is becoming increasing narrow.  We read headlines suggesting that in future years humans will be working alongside robots in the workplace, but is this really an advancement? Many will argue yes, but if you look at the evidence linked to demise of workplace culture, productivity and leadership, the reality is we are limiting talent and holding back business success and growth.

As life becomes ever more controlled the human race will seek out more and more visuals. Film and TV is increasing in popularity because it inspires the senses. It stimulates our visual imagination and our visual senses need motivation. Food has long been growing in popularity and art is equally enjoying a strong renaissance. Art galleries are appearing in most towns today and many families are now buying art in a way that has not happened before. Hotels are now hosting artists and promoting their work and selling works to customers. Hotels and restaurants have become unofficial platforms for the arts and of course they bring together those two growing cultural passions, food and art.

Love the basics

Arguably, thirty years ago, most people did not work as hard as many do in the corporate world today. There were more escapes and rewards during the working day – more people smoked and would take a break during various intervals at work, more people took time out of the working day and went to the pub at lunchtime. Today this is rare. Today food has become a key reward and part of relaxation during the day and people do buy food with their eyes.

Food has become more vibrant, more creative and more exciting and suddenly as a result there has been an explosion in the love for fresh produce, not so much organic but local fresh foods. Buy a tomato today and the buyer does want to know the source of where that food came from. More and more people are going on gastronomic travels to discover the sources of great foods. Knowledge is growing at speed for food and wine sales are increasing too.

As the world becomes more sophisticated so to people are responding to love the basics that make daily life more inspirational such as foods, farms, vineyards, crafts, artisan foods, bakery, traditional cooking methods and art theatres, TV and cinema.

A ‘quiet’ revolution

How does this relate to businesses today?  If we continue to make life more controlled and allow it to be led by technology, it’s likely that we will start to witness a quiet revolution where people actually reject corporate life and focus on all of these areas instead. We will see an upsurge in new boutique restaurants, hotels, cinemas, theatres and galleries as people will want something more engaging than meetings, processes and technology.

Like it or not, as human we are naturally inspired via the visual. We see the visual as being a key essence in life and we will drive that agenda whatever else is happening around us.  As such, we should not be surprised to see businesses in the corporate world hosting more art and greater food styles in their operations as they look for answers and solutions for falling cultures.  Businesses want and need their employees to be inspired, why not focus on food and art to bring people together again.

Inspiration at the heart of business

Life whether in business or at home changes, and yet at the same time it does not. People want friendship at home and at work, they want great food, great wines and they also want art and visuals that lift life to another level.  Is it time for businesses to expand their minds and to think beyond the ‘norm’? After all, is it possible that we are missing the obvious here?

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