In our binary world we love to separate our experiences of life into two categories and in many ways this ability serves us. As children it is vital to make sense of our world and we are taught to differentiate right from wrong, good from bad and safety from danger. This is a useful framework to use in navigating our journey through a complex and potentially confusing world. As we gain experience and confidence we come to recognise shades of grey and multiple levels of perception and start to see beyond black and white.
In the words of William Blake ” If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is – infinite”
When we find ourselves under stress or faced with new horizons we often revert to the previous programme of either/or thinking and miss many of lifes richer possibilities. This dynamic is clear in the realm of politics where the more democratic nations almost invariably develop two party systems with the adherents of each party claiming their party is right and good while the opposition is wrong and bad.
This dualistic division is especially apparent in the ingrained split between business and artistic creativity. This one starts early in school when we are presented with a choice between arts ands science with the message that the smart ones do science and mathematics and the weird ones do drama or painting to keep them out of trouble. Business types then go to business school and train for financial success and arty types flit off to get by or find a wealthy patron. As a result we find wealthy business owners who are stiff and isolated in their roles and creative people unable to actualise their talents due to a lack of focus and resources. This reductive worldview of a split between art and science is a fairly recent invention, it was natural during the Renaissance for people like Leonardo da Vinci to be an inventor, scientist, painter, botanist, engineer and writer.
William Blake raged eloquently against the narrowing of human vision ” May God us keep, from single vision and Newton’s sleep”
There is a tremendous richness to be found when we find synergy between business and artistic creativity and find clarity on the mutual benefits of embracing both disciplines. I am indebted to Joanna Jesson who mentored me in finding ways to communicate the business benefits of improvisation and see to it that the twain should meet. The outcome is a project called the Business Improv Lab which was founded last year by myself and Neil Mullarkey of the Comedy Store Players. This is a monthly masterclass in London where a small group of consultants, coaches and business leaders improvise together and develop applications which are then used in the workplace. The benefit of regular meetings is that the learnings can be refined and also members can bring specific issues to work with. The outcomes were used with an executive team of a major bank and the results exceeded expectations. When we unlock the talent and creativity of a team in an experimental setting and then focus the new learning on a project the impact is dramatic. With accelerating change in global markets maybe it’s time for some new Renaissance men and women on the stage of commerce!