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The Picasso Principle

Updated: Oct 5, 2022

What can a man in a bar and Pablo Picasso teach today's managers and CEOs?

There’s an often-told story about Pablo Picasso - which may or may not be true - that demonstrates how often we value something based solely on the amount of time it takes to “create” it.

Whether the story is true or not doesn't matter, because the principle is being tested constantly whenever we interact with consultants, financial advisors, ad agencies, “experts”, or anyone who makes their living using some combination of intelligence, expertise, and imagination.

The story goes like this…

A man is in a bar with Pablo Picasso, and he asks Picasso to create an original work of art for him. He offers $50,000. Picasso takes a pencil from the bartender and sketches for 2 minutes on a cocktail napkin, hands it to the man, and asks for the $50,000.

The man is outraged. “It only took you 2 minutes, and you want $50,000? How can you charge me so much money for so little work?” Picasso looked at him and said, “Two minutes, you say? No, my friend. It took me more than 60 years to learn to do that. So, you can pay me now.”

The message is simple – experience, expertise, and imagination are powerful tools that usually become even more valuable over time. Yet, these days, so many executives think the opposite is true – that young people have all the answers and experienced people are just “too expensive” or “out of touch”.

Perhaps it's worth reflecting on the man in the bar. And the "old" Mr. Picasso. That combination of experience, expertise, and imagination could be your competitive edge.

John Parikhal is President of John Parikhal + Associates.


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