Prajna Desai

Art is essential - 6 techniques from the artworld to make you a better leader

Prajna Desai Keynote Speaker

Prajna Desai is an art historian, critic, curator, and educator. Prajna's thinking and work unfolds at the intersection of culture, environment, and progressive storytelling for change. Over the past fifteen years, her journey has involved research and leadership positions within the corporate art world in diversity-driven institutional initiatives, gallery exhibitions, and scholarship; in academia through teaching and publishing; and by way of large-scale public programming and curatorial for non-profit organisations, in places as varied as Latin America, Japan, the United States, and India.

Masterclass overview

Many people see art as leisure but that misses how its workings have a magnetic ability to cultivate and unite ambition and re-envision the limits of what’s possible. This is what Warren Buffet underscored by calling his conglomerate a masterpiece, a museum, and an unlimited canvas all rolled into one—that art is essential, not recreational, whether or not you’re an art lover. In short, as a world where creative and operational intelligence combine in transformative and pleasurable ways, art is the business companies ought to learn from.

In the world of art, where the artist captures a fluid mix of instinct and enterprise, the artist studio is likened to a laboratory, the artist collective to a democratized guild, the gallery to an incubator, the curator to a catalyst, a museum to a think tank, and a landmark exhibition to a white paper. Varied as it is, this ecosystem is unanimous, that art gets its fuel from diversity, disruption, and discussion; enterprise and stamina; and failures that inspire breakthroughs.

In bringing this message to business, Prajna’s masterclass shows how naturalizing art’s professional mechanisms in organizational behaviour can equip companies with tools to identify and retain agile talent for increasingly tech-enabled ways of doing business; stay nimble by approaching strategy as process not one-time decision, and creatively leverage risk to seize opportunity. But the real edge art will give companies over the long haul is linking work with purpose and fulfilment through people empowered with agency, choice, and equity.

Value and expected outcomes


  • Discovering what enterprise consists of; developing micro-reflexes that make get-up-and-go second nature; and observing which areas it impacts to transform work into a site of pleasure
  • Grasping that skill and imagination are less likely to deplete work quality than poverty of morale and surplus of cynicism. Mitigating these two downers by learning how to trust the team and show it, encouraging communication, and providing greater opportunities for free thinking
  • Recognizing the correlation between: individual resourcefulness and agency, choice and growth opportunity, and accountability and equity, among talent and leaders alike
  • Learning how to: spur individual bests towards innovative and cohesive solutions; assess the value of audacious propositions; drive daisy-chain/lateral thinking; tonifying team dynamics through a friendly work environment
  • After burn: Acquiring artworld-derived tools to improve work habits in this structured way, as a group, has statistically proven wellness benefits with regard to pleasure, vision (perspective), sound (uptake & consideration) attention (observation & scrutiny), language (communication & persuasion) and memory (recall & lateral connections) which become more synchronized in individuals and across the group.


  • Becoming trend- and risk-literate and thus better equipped to set consequential strategies apropos to client expectations
  • Gaining employee respect and loyalty
  • Cohesive organisational ambition

What is covered?

The masterclass introduces the analogy of different styles and strategies of making, curating, exhibiting art, organising collections, and strategising museum direction to define SIX simple yet energising substitution techniques that participants can learn and adopt to reorient how they think about work, set new directions, and inspire themselves and each other.

These techniques are discussed and interpreted by looking at images and video clips of artworks and exhibitions installations, as well as through IRL art exercises (wherever possible).


  1. Work like an artist: own your artistry — resourcefulness is an aphrodisiac. Be a self-initiating asset not an interchangeable resource in a supply chain. Work is a laboratory space to initiate, reboot, and revise. Loving what you do begins with claiming agency
  2. Steer collaboration as though it were a multi-disciplinary artist collective — studies prove that robust group conversations can align patterns of thought. To do this, aerate job silos. Get to know talent strengths and cross-functionalise them through discussion. Place diversity and strengths, not job function, at the centre of work. Consistency is the fallout shelter of the unimaginative
  3. Incubate like a gallerist — skew vision to the long term and listen to talent needs and propositions. Pass the mic. Everyone deserves a solo show! Monitor change, foil stagnation. Use the group show format to mediate and juxtapose talent. Adjacency spurs confidence and initiative
  4. Catalyse like a curator — research, interpret, diversify, and ignite. Build your own archive of knowledge. Tap diverse expertise to stay alive to trends and client expectations. Don’t fear an outlier/extra-curricular perspective. Use it to spark extraordinary connections across diverse skills
  5. Strategize like a museum in think tank mode — smart museums commit to showing new art along with revitalising canonical collections. This means securing commitments from your crew to broadly defined outcomes and problems to be solved, or the ‘what’. But open up space for the ‘how’. Balance the guardrails around tasks with a wider field of operation
  6. Imagine your project is a landmark exhibition, a white paper — plan and delegate with conviction, be persistent, and maintain exuberance for defined outcomes but stay open to opinion. Combining firmness and receptiveness is a litmus test of inspired leadership

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Eugenia Feoktistova​ Head Of Executive Learning +34 6 72 66 16 60

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