Mercedes-Benz Financial Services is trying to link art and business to expand employees’ on-the-job thinking.

“Art belongs in a business environment,” says Peter Zieringer, the president and CEO of the Farmington Hills, MI-based lender.

“It facilitates an internal dialogue, which is so critical with our customers and dealers,” he says. “It pushes us to think differently, which supports problem-solving and innovation.” 

To enhance creative thinking, Mercedes Financial is exposing employees to a special program at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The company also sponsors community and school art-education initiatives.

“All of our recent presidents and CEOs – Juergen Walker, Klaus Entenmann, Franz Reiner and Peter Zieringer – vigorously support this program,” Mercedes Financial spokesman Jack Ferry says of the DIA project.

At the museum, groups of Mercedes Financial staffers view masterpieces by artists such as Diego Rivera, Rembrandt and Picasso. A trained facilitator asks for their impressions during post-viewing meetings.

“During the debriefing session, we touch on how art applies to business and think about how employees can make use of more creativity at work and offer different solutions to our customers,” says Leila Matta, the company’s brand-identity manager.

Participants engage in collaborative discussion and offer answers to messages suggested by the art they view. One rule of the exercise: There’s no wrong answer.

Coordinators realize the challenges. To ask employees to completely “connect the art experience to their jobs is forcing it too far,” Matta says.

But a business-art relationship offers many advantages, she adds. “It’s about cognitive diversity. The way people think is based on where they come from. Art reflects the diversity of the world, the workplace and the people in it.”

Art is displayed abundantly throughout company headquarters. The main lobby and work areas showcase about 100 pieces, including paintings, sculpture and photography. Works by art students and talented employees themselves also are displayed.

Two Andy Warhol paintings featuring a car theme hang in the executive boardroom. The pieces are among the last done by the pop artist before his 1987 death.