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The Art of Business

The connection between art and business is strong. Increasingly the arts are being tapped into for the insights they can offer into the world of business. This is probably because they have a tremendous amount in common. Wall Street Journal author Carol Hymowitz put it succinctly when she explained their parallels. “There are similarities between successful artists and executives in their approaches to their work. Both must be self-confident about making a product that can hold the attention of paying customers. They must be astute in assessing and developing talent, as well as making sure that talent works well together.”

Harvard Business Review take it one step further by suggesting that every leader is an artist, implying that leadership is an art, not metaphorically but actually.

As someone who has a background in the performing arts I’ve witnessed firsthand the ways in which the performing arts can impact one’s leadership, management and communication style. I think because it is, at its core, a profoundly human endeavour to create art. Moreover, this can have a profound impact on business.

Take for example the all-important subject of employee engagement. Much has been written about this topic and if you talk to any HR manager they’ll tell you all about the rewards and challenges of having engaged employees. So how do you get engagement? Well one strategy is to understand that you’re dealing with a human, not a cog or a “worker”. And humans are essentially emotional creatures with drives and behaviours. As Tom Peters says “Profit is fine. - a sign that the customer honors the value of what we do. But "enterprise" (a lovely word) is about heart. About beauty. It's about art. About people throwing themselves on the line. It's about passion and the selfless pursuit of an ideal.”

Reports have shown that those who participate in the arts “become more engaged citizens”, meaning that they promote not only civic behaviors such as voting and volunteering, but also helping articulate alternatives to current assumptions, offering innovative and alternative solutions to challenges and fueling a broader political imagination. If this is the good that the arts can promote for society, just imagine what sort of good they can do in an orgnisation.

I use the arts to help with all the facilitation and development work I undertake. The platform of the arts reminds me that each client session is a unique opportunity to engage with and learn from our audience, alongside the professional development focus for the session. The performing arts provides a wealth of knowledge and practical techniques to work with varied groups of people, support effective communication and encourage rich diversity. The arts provides interdisciplinary learning techniques, which encourage people to express themselves in a safe and creative way – in terms of leadership development this can be a very rewarding outcome when logic, scientific approaches and process don’t always deliver alone, the arts enable a pathway forward.

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