knowledge must eventually stand
independently from its originators.
But it is equally true that scientists
invest enormous personal passion in
their work. Scientific work often
takes on the character of a quest,
replete with all manner of so-called
unscientific beliefs, tastes, and biases.
Successes emanating from such per-
sonal pursuits are well documented.
Isaac Newton articulated the laws of
motion and calculus while pursuing
alchemy and magic. The voyage of
the HMS Beagle defined the person
of Darwin, who in turn defined the
study of evolution. Personal bias in
science is corrected not by eliminat-
ing the personal but by peer review,
further research, and (sometimes) by
the practice of critical self-awareness.
How do we both encourage and
correct for the personal in leadership
Science and Art Are Based in
Science is, of course, but is art?
These days we are bombarded by art
designed to shock or manipulate, but
most art (as I have defined it) is part
of a question-rich conversation—an
inquiry—between the artist and the
viewers, users, of the art. As an
example, consider the invention of
point perspective during the
Renaissance. Previously, the mural
and the mosaic had been the domi-
nant visual artistic devices, very
effective in portraying icons and bib-
lical narratives. Giotto and his col-
leagues introduced the then-startling
technique of representing the world
from a single, geometrically precise
point of view, thus obtaining a unique
perspective. This technique embodied
a question, one that was to prove
fruitful: What happens if we look at
the world in this new way? This
inquiry quickly spread to cartogra-
phy, navigation, architecture, and
How can leadership sustain fruit-
ful inquiry into complex challenges?
Science and Art Are
Once more, science is, of course, but
is art? Although art is often viewed as
mainly an expressive outlet not given
to sober testing, in most cases, rational
experimentation plays a central role in
the ongoing process of creating good
art. Potters, for example, are akin to
cooks and chemists when they develop
recipes for clays and glazes, keeping
detailed records of their tests and
forming guiding hypotheses. Very few
artists are aloof from the opinions of
their audience or customers and at
least implicitly experiment in making
their work more desirable or effective.
Surgeons are often viewed as artists,
and operations are creative acts within
tight constraints. Surgery is based in
experiments in the field and more
informally in the work of individual
surgeons as they analyze their experi-
ences. The term operator as applied to
surgeons originally had negative con-
notations of sleight of hand, and
rational experimentation eventually
was the element that elevated surgery
from quackery to a robust and
respectable art form.
What is the role of leadership in
promoting experimentation?
The research my colleagues and I are
conducting suggests that these crossing
points between science and art can also
enhance leadership for groups address-
ing complex challenges. But two cau-
tions are in order. First, an adequate
level of competency is required in
these processes. For example, it helps
considerably to be aware of and to
value what is highly personal to you in
your work and to be able to deperson-
alize when necessary. And experimen-
tation requires discipline, practice, and
group support. Second, these four
processes are (ideally) mutually cor-
recting and should be used together in
concert: inquiry and experimentation
help individuals resolve sensory and
personal biases, and vice versa.
Human intelligence is perhaps not
so radically different across its various
endeavors as it sometimes appears. I
close with a story of how two very
different communities found leader-
ship at the intersection of art and sci-
ence. Robert Wilson was the founding
director of the Fermi National
Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab),
the high-energy particle accelerator
facility at the forefront of modern
physics. Wilson, a leading physicist
and an accomplished sculptor,
designed Fermilab as an embodiment
of the aesthetics of science, in the
belief that “the way science describes
nature is based on aesthetic decisions.
He modeled the administration build-
ing on the proportions of Beauvais
Cathedral in France (once referred to
as the Parthenon of French architec-
ture). Wilson admired the community
of medieval cathedral builders and
compared them to the community of
accelerator builders: “Both were dar-
ing innovators, both were fiercely
competitive along national lines, but
yet were basically internationalists. . . .
[The cathedral builders also] recog-
nized themselves as technically ori-
ented; one of their slogans was ‘Ars
sine scientia nihil est’”—that is, “art
without science is nothing.
Charles J. Palus is a research scientist,
faculty member, and project manager at
CCL. He holds a Ph.D. degree from
Boston College.
Human intelligence is
perhaps not so radically
different across its vari-
ous endeavors as it
sometimes appears.

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