SXSW 2017: The CEO of This Futuristic Automaker Makes Time for Art -- Maybe You Should, Too
Entrepreneur is on the ground at SXSW. Watch our coverage for highlights throughout the festival.
Padmasree Warrior is the U.S. CEO of Nio, a Chinese automaker that has debuted two jaw-dropping autonomous vehicles in the past six months. She’s also a mother, a wife, a poet, an artist and an engineer.
Warrior encourages holistic introductions like this. In part, she says she believes they’re essential to authenticity. It’s also why she posts her original art or haikus to her Twitter followers (all 1.6 million of them). She brings her whole self to her work -- and it's an example to others that it’s okay for them to do the same.
But there’s a business lesson here, too. Nio doesn’t just want to sell people cars -- it wants to change how people see cars in the future. Warrior says she believes that goal will take the full skillsets of every Nio team member -- from its writers and designers to its engineers. According to Warrior, the company’s success depends on its ability to pool everyone’s passions, talents and expertise.
Entrepreneur caught up with Warrior in Austin to learn how she fits art into her life -- and how you can, too. Here are four lessons you can learn from her example.
1. It’s about mindset.
Most people think they don’t have time to be creative. But those people just might need a different approach to creativity. For Warrior, for example, painting is as important as exercise. Even on days when she thinks she’s too tired to paint, creating art always energizes her. “When I do paint I can paint continuously, like for five hours, and come out of it feeling really refreshed. My mind is really calm. I can think a lot more clearly and I don’t make hasty decisions.”
2. Think small.
Big, ambitious side projects are exciting, but complicated projects can be overwhelming. Warrior is drawn to haikus, in part, for their simplicity. A poetic form with just three phrases and 17 syllables offers enough structure to be challenging and expressive without being daunting. Watercolor painting is another activity that offers the right level of structure, since the nature of the medium itself limits how complicated the work can be. After all, there’s only so much material the paper will hold and still stay intact. Such simple limits can leave you free to play -- and explore.
3. Bring all your passions with you.
Nio’s vehicles, the sleek Eve concept car and the muscular EP9 supercar, combine technology and design. “The more we combine these parts of ourselves, the more we will create something that everybody will enjoy,” Warrior says. Publicly embracing art -- as well as crafts and fashion -- was a way for her to rebel against what a tech executive was supposed to like, especially a female tech executive. “I believe in being completely authentic,” she says.
4. Creativity fosters creativity.
Sharing your own creativity with others has a positive side effect. You unearth other creatives and find yourself surrounded by talented, engaged people. This approach encourages everyone around you to pursue their full potential.
Because Warrior is open about her creative projects, her staff is open as well. She knows which colleague writes music and which software engineer is an amazing DJ. As a result, a staffer’s song found its way into a company video while another staffer used his DJ skills at a party at SXSW. “If you suppress that and only saw him as a software guy as a lot of companies would, then he’s leaving part of his passion behind when he comes to work.”
She adds, “In leadership and decision-making, being an artist and being a poet and being an engineer allows me to appreciate a diversity of skillsets.”