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Think Like Van Gogh and 4 Other Must-Read Business Tips

A look at how thinking like an artist can help you run your business and other essential nuggets of wisdom for business owners.
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A roundup of the best tips of the week from

Great artists could teach entrepreneurs a thing or two, especially when it comes to observation. Artists are more perceptive than most people; they see aspects of the world that others miss—colors, shapes, patterns and textures. "Observation also needs to be a continuous activity for entrepreneurs," says Duane Edwards, a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Globys, a Seattle-based big data analytics company. "You need to look for patterns, trends and connections. You need to observe below the surface and beyond the headlines to see the essence of what is happening in the world."

Edwards advises business owners to take in as much as possible of the world around them. Listen to customers, employees, peers and business leaders. Read the news, read blogs and LinkedIn headlines and look for connections between things that seem unrelated at first glance. And don't stay married to a familiar routine. Get out into the world; explore new environments. "Over the years, I've made a conscious effort to meet new people, expose myself to different industries and visit other countries, even if for no other purpose than to observe and learn," he says. More: What Salvador Dali and Jeff Bezos Have in Common []

Tailor assignments to the people doing them.
It's a sure bet that your business will change over time. While you may sometimes have to hire and fire people during periods of transition, it's best if you can get your existing employees to buy into the company's new direction, says Lindsay Broder, an executive coach who lives in New York City. One way to do that is to make sure you play to employees' strengths. Don't set a big-picture person to work on detail-oriented tasks. Square pegs belong in square holes, not round ones. Let each staffer know how their work contributes to the business's overall goals, then set expectations for achievement. More: Change Is Good. Now, How to Get Employees to Buy In

Encourage employees to take time off.
Whether you have a traditional vacation policy or one that allows for potentially unlimited vacation, like some forward-thinking tech companies, you should be encouraging your employees to get away from the office for rest and relaxation. An employee who rarely takes vacation may be feeling overwhelmed with work expectations, or may be covering something up, says Andrea Herran, the founder of Focus HR, a Barrington, Ill.-based human resource consultancy. Either way, you should get to the bottom of it. "Employees need to get away and recharge," Herran says. "If they're not doing so, something could be seriously wrong and it could be hurting your company." More: Should You Give Your Employees Unlimited Vacation Time?

Ditch a mentor who doesn't provide introductions.
A mentor is someone with more experience and better contacts than you. So why would you stick with someone who drags his feet when it comes to making introductions for you? "They should be getting you to think of new people to build relationships with," says Jason Womack, founder of The Womack Company, an Ojai, Calif.-based productivity-training firm. If your mentor won't help you get your foot in the door, it may be time to show him the door yourself. More: 5 Signs It's Time to Fire Your Mentor

Be willing to delegate.
It's an old lesson, but one worth repeating: One of the cornerstones of good management is the ability to delegate tasks and manage people effectively. Unless your business is a one-person operation, trying to do everything yourself is a surefire way to end up becoming a drag on productivity. "The pace of business is fast, which is why you can't do it all yourself," says Amie Gray, a partner with Mt. Kisco, N.Y.-based DataKeyConsulting, which specializes in management and operations. "Managers who effectively delegate work to others get more done -- in less time -- and are valued for their level of productivity." More: 10 Questions to Ask Yourself When Measuring Your Management Strengths