For the past couple of months, I have been working on a major learning and development project; Art in Strategic Thinking. I’m now looking at the marketing side of things and decided to create my own illustrations; well I am a qualified illustrator. Here is a series of images I created to illustrate the principle artistic endeavours within the AiST program.
When was the last time you considered your viewpoint or invited others to showcase theirs?
Using perspective enables you to choose the best vantage so that when you view the same data and information from different positions, a different picture will emerge. And what insights might become obscured?
How will you choose and secure the best position from which you and your team can view the most important insights for your strategic intent?
Is the way you see your organisation; your existing perceptual framework: appropriate? How do you know?
By engaging in creative endeavours your organisation can unleash the potential of your team and conceive new ideas.
Changing the way that something is perceived can develop reflective practice so that your organisation can embrace an uncertain future.
Is this not a foretelling of the impact of social media? “Zeal for doing, lust for action, leaves many a person, especially in this hurried and impatient human environment in which we live, with experience of an almost incredible paucity, all on the surface. No one experience has a chance to complete itself because something else is entered upon so speedily. What is called experience becomes so dispersed and miscellaneous as hardly to deserve the name. Resistance is treated as an obstruction to be beaten down, not as an invitation to reflection. An individual comes to seek, unconsciously even more than by deliberate choice, situations in which he can do the most things in the shortest time.” John Dewey. Art as Experience. 1934.
Since I first posted about the program I am developing I have been involved in a lot of research, reading, analysis and development. As a result, I have revisited the original material I wrote on Art in Strategic Thinking and updated it as follows:
“So what does participation and experience in the artistic endeavours bring to the development of strategic thinking? It has nothing to do with artistic talent per se; the aim is not to achieve fame and fortune as an artistic master but, rather, to develop the attributes and critical reflective processes necessary for strategic thinking. An arts experience ‘opens the doors of perception,’ as poet William Blake wrote in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.”
(Learning to Think Strategically. p233. Julia Sloan. 2006)
In order to open the doors of perception, I am suggesting an experiential learning program where participants are introduced to the concept that artistic endeavour and the aesthetic mind are as important as the scientific theories of leadership and management and the logic of rational thinking. Participants are invited to explore and undertake a variety of artistic endeavours and relate these activities as prompts, metaphors and tools for learning to think strategically.
Since I was 8 years old I have held the belief that everyone (limiting physical and mental disabilities acknowledged) has a degree of artistic ability. However, within western society at least, this artistic ability becomes subservient to the scientific rationale of absolutism at the expense of a heuristic approach embedded within an aesthetic mindset. Put simply; it is my view that ‘Anyone can draw’ but the critics need to keep quiet.
In 2003 I happened upon ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’(2001), by Dr Betty Edwards which became the foundation for a personal development course; ‘Anyone can draw, the art of challenging self-limiting beliefs’. The course is not about developing techniques or skills; it is about implanting a notion that a participant may well be able to draw. When delivering this program, I was asked on a number of occasions whether the premise could be implemented in business. This set me on a journey to explore whether artistic endeavour could provide enlightenment within the rationalistic endeavour of managing and leading an organisation. In 2017 I finished formulating the principles of the business program ‘The Art in Strategic Thinking’ (AiST), and set about searching for and analysing any relevant material that might support the proposition. It turns out that the subject of aesthetics within the organisation is of mounting interest in today’s (2018) age of increasing uncertainty
In the past three or so decades there has been a growing movement looking at the relationship with and the implementation of aesthetics within management and organisation. From early material such as Degot’s ‘Portrait of the Manager as an Artist’ (1987) through John Dobson; The Art of Management and the Aesthetic Manager (1999), Strati’s; Organisation and Aesthetics (1999), on to Chytry’s ‘Organisational Aesthetics: The Artful Firm and the Aesthetic Moment in Organization and Management Theory (2008) and Groot, Weggeman and van Aken; Aesthetic Experiences of Professionals in Organisations, to name just a few, we have a body of works that explore and explain that the leadership and management of organisations is a whole lot more than the learning and implementation of rationalistic and scientific theories and models espoused by the traditional business school. Indeed the report on a study by Page et al (2008) at the UWE, cites the traditional approach to ‘higher’ learning as didactic and explores the emotional aspects of a student centred approach and learning from critical reflection on experience.
The material I have discovered and read; whilst not (explicitly) proving the principles of the program I have developed, the writings of Dr Betty Edwards and Julia Sloan, does lend credence to the idea that this sort of program has a place in leadership and management training by encouraging perception through the use of the visual sense. Again, the program is not an art course and does not attempt to teach technique. The program engages participants in creative thinking; activating the aesthetic mindset, by experiencing eight principles of artistic endeavour and applying these principles to strategic intent.
The eight artistic principles
Looking and seeing; the art of challenging limiting beliefs
A question of style; the different strategic objectives
Negative space and what isn’t there
Light and shade, the blindingly obvious and darkest recesses
Colour, where cold, calculating and warm, fuzzy have their place
Perspective and the changing power of detachment
The medium; a look at tools to create a strategic plan
Big picture and ignoring what isn’t needed
The program is conducted over two days and at the end participants will have:
- engaged in producing an accurate piece of artistic endeavour as an exercise in challenging self-limiting beliefs
- curated different styles of artistic endeavour in a number of different ways and related these to different types of strategic objective
- demonstrated the ability to observe all elements of a scene and reported on the importance of accounting for what is not evident
- enriched an image by adding tone and identified which dark recesses of an organisation might shed light on or assist in supporting strategic intent
- described the relevance and impact of colour and documented the rich reserves of staff with different temperaments, behaviours, knowledge and skills
- described different art medium and related these to the variety of analysis and planning instruments and tools available for different strategic objectives
- identified how a different viewpoint changes what is observed and suggested how they might get a better view of their strategic direction
- selected one or more elements of an image on which to focus and assembled or disassemble the scope of strategic intent
By actively engaging in the eight sessions participants will have added to their ability to think strategically. As strategists, they will have considered and practised a variety of creative and innovative endeavours. They will have been prompted to think differently. And as with any endeavour, whether aesthetic or logic, the seeding of the experience in their mindset is intended to prompt them to practice which will be the key to making the new way of thinking, the normal way of thinking strategically.
For the past few months, I have been working on a major project for a drone training company in the UK. The vision of the business owner was to develop a course that was as far removed from what appeared to be common the marketplace. Let me explain.
Some time ago I went through drone training to get my permission for commercial operations from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). There was about 25 of us in the classroom, just like being back at school; being talked at for a day and a half with the instructor reading from 200 or more PowerPoint slides. It was a good thing he was reading from the slides as the text was so small on some I could not from the back of the room. The two-day course included the exam in the afternoon of the second day so the material I had managed to memorise was still fresh enough in my short-term memory, and I managed to pass the exam. This was classic ‘death by PowerPoint’.
Within a few days much of what I had learnt (out of context) I had forgotten. This is a typical shortcoming of the traditional type of instructional course. Reviews of social media sites would suggest that there are still courses being run where candidates have remembered sufficient to pass an exam but then need to ask basic questions on topics such as air law because they too have forgotten, or were not instructed in the material.
An acquaintance who experienced the same training had a vision of setting up an NQE (National Qualified Entity) but one that would do things differently. They knew I came from a learning and development background and asked if it was possible to develop a course that fulfilled the requirements of the CAA but was different from and better than the rest. I made a few suggestions and earlier this year we started to develop the course that would use experiential and accelerated learning techniques.
The first big hurdle was to abandon the reliance on PowerPoint slides. In a conversation, I stressed the importance that the predominant vehicle for candidate learning must be through active engagement with the material and in some sort of context. The client had already devised the idea of a ‘Workflow’ covering all aspects of a project from client enquiry to post project administration. This provided a perfect platform upon which we started to create an experiential learning programme that was integrated across pre-course learning, ground school and operations manual development.
In August, the client had their NQE audit with the CAA where the Air Law module was trialled. The auditors were taken by surprise by the level of engagement and immediately recognised the power of the technique. They commented that this was the first time they had encountered this method and praised the client for their unique approach.
I have created a training program that uses art as a vehicle for learning to think strategically. Colour is an artistic endeavour that is allied to emotions and this short film illustrates the use of colour in movies. And I love the music as well.
I have spent some of the last month building a water feature. The design is part of a large 1.7 acre garden; this feature being the first stage. The concept was to connect two existing ponds with a substantial water cascade.
I haven’t posted here for a while; not because I have been idle but because I have been soooooo busy.
Over the past few months I have had the great pleasure in combining two of my favorite interests: learning and development and aviation.
I have been heavily involved in developing a drone training program for a new UK NQE plus most of their required documents including technical and reference material.
This project is coming to a close as submission to the CAA is due by the end of July 2018.
I look forward to being able to exploit the huge range of knowledge that I have accrued through the research I put into creating some 30+ documents.
And I can also now divert some of my attention to the personal projects I have had to put on hold for the past 4+ months.
I am looking for between six and eight corporate individuals, from one or more organisations who can provide space to conduct a one day Art in Strategic Thinking programme.
There is no direct trainer cost to this course. I will need to recoup expenses such as travelling and or subsistence. It is developmental and will inform further work in expanding the course and other material I am writing.
Email me direct if you would like to explore this idea further.