Artists in the Boardroom

A recent article in Fast Company magazine posed the question: Is an MFA the new MBA?  Author of the article Steve Tepper points to the need for creativity in the next generation of business leaders, making the point that those trained in the role of artist (such as a graduate of fine arts) as being ideally suited for the new economic climate fraught with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.  On the one hand Tepper challenges us to literally bring an artist into the boardroom or the business planning process to see one’s organization through fresh eyes.  He also offers several excellent points outlining how business leaders could strive to tap into the talent nurtured in the creative arts, those traits and skills that may be hiding in plain sight within their workforce.

Our “Kingbridge Knowledge Gift” for this week comes from Tim Dixon, one of our strategic partners within our Collaboration Institute and our Meeting Experience Architect, working with our clients to design and deliver Kingbridge Organizational Programs:

In reading this article, I was reminded of those times when I have facilitated strategic conversations about “charting a new business direction” or “engaging our employees during a significant organizational change” – when words simply weren’t enough to convey meaning.  The shared understanding of the participants’ “cultural climate” was greatly enhanced during those types of leadership forum events when we were literally able to “ask an artist” what they were hearing.  The use of a graphic scribe allowed us to capture the essence of the dialogue so that the organizational landscape the artist was able to record provided a visual anchor for those leaders to engage their own teams when subsequently telling the story of their new direction and initiatives.  Below is an example of such a graphic representation of organizational complexity in uncertain times, which emerged during a multi-media simulation based on the metaphor “cross the desert of change”.

graphic scribe of shifting sands program

Another gem that can come from an arts-based orientation is a concept I picked up many years ago from a mentor and longtime thespian – Dr. Possibilities, who taught me the importance in an organizational setting for being a ‘SpectActor’.   Howard Jerome – aka Dr. Possibilities and founder of the Canadian Improv Games reminds students and executives alike to play their part in the grand theatre of life or business, while aware of how one’s role serves to bring the best out of the other actors.  This skill of critical self-reflection in action is what adult learning theorist Mezirow saw as pivotal to transformative learning.  So let us all strive to draw upon our inner Spectator to enhance relationships in our teams and with key stakeholders, as well as seek opportunities to bring the artist into the organization to see business through a fresh set of eyes.