Sketching a Room of Interaction and Development for Innovation and Leadership Learning

Kurt Mayer


What and how can arts-based interventions add to the sustainable assurance of the survival of organizations? And what and how can arts add to organizations to guarantee their future in a social and sustainable way?

One the one hand, our question deals with the aspect of business management: it is about the survival of organizations. On the other hand, thinking beyond this aspect the question highlights the relevance for society as a whole, on which the development of organizations and companies in turn has a decisive impact. On consideration of current societal problems such as climate change and the financial crisis, there is an interest in finding suitable interventions for organizations that activate the awareness, decision making and responsible problem solving.

The focus on the arts is against the background of an economy whose social and ecological implications (keywords: climate change, financial crisis, oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico) increasingly detract from the fundamental means of existence of our society. In this context, long before the financial crisis Mintzberg (2004, p. 185) speaks of a serious crisis in business management. According to Mintzberg, this new generation of elite managers, who move directly from business schools and MBA programs to the executive suites of multinational corporations and the financial sector, uses organizations as a vehicle for personal ambitions without any team spirit or long-term strategic considerations. The destructiveness of this caste is reflected in questionable commissions, high compensations and the falsification of balance sheets, as well as the practice of stealing, fleeing and shirking one's responsibility.

We are once again faced with a political system which is not able to act as a corrective for our economy. The half-hearted (Kyoto Protocol) too powerless (UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen) measures to counteract climate change or the hesitant actions for the regulation of our disastrous financial instruments are an obvious proof of this dilemma. The elites of the political system are mired in mighty economic interests, which makes it difficult to differentiate between politics and economy (former Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi is virtually the tip of the iceberg). Furthermore, against the background of media democracy the political system is increasingly—practically self-referentially—engaged in its own orchestration and marketing. Election campaigns and political discourse are becoming more and more like marketing campaigns which are directed by professional PR and communication experts. Public discourse is deteriorating into mere spectacles. Politics are becoming political orchestrations, with experts both choosing and shaping the issues prior to public debate.

The arts therefore carry high hopes for our society. "The world is not in perfect shape," says Nancy Adler,[1] relating to the explanations above and referring to the "financial crisis, poverty crisis, health crisis, education crisis, environmental crisis." Her conclusion is: "Only by investing in the artistry of our humanity will we create the peaceful, prosperous planet we deserve."[2] The dimension and depth of the expectations of and hopes in arts meeting management are brought to bear in the following quote by management consultant Margret Wheatly:

"And yet the opportunity here is to really explore more of the dimensionality of life, more of our emotions, more of our human spirits, because humans have gone through periods of darkness and chaos before, and we do not have to fix it, but we do need to know how to go through it. And for me that is where music, poetry and deep emotional expression will save ourselves. I do not see this as a casual need to say, well the arts should come into business. I see this as: Is it possible for business leaders to realize that the dilemmas in question they are facing cannot be solved by their traditional management behavior, their traditional management tools? And that they are going to need to really be able to dwell in the deep domain of human experience and things like faith, courage, friendship, love, compassion, all of those emotions, grief, loss, which are only expressed in the arts. (Margret Wheatley, as cited in Darso, 2004, p. 34)

  • [1] Nancy Adler is S. Bronfman Chair in Management and Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. In addition, she works as an artist, writer, and painter. The quote is taken from a lecture given by Adler during the social hour of the Management Consulting Division at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management 2010, Montréal, Canada, August 6-10.
  • [2] See, for example, the motto of an exhibition by Nancy Adler, Reality in Translation, Going Beyond the Dehydrated Language of Management, World Premiere September 1-19, 2010 Montreal. Artist Nancy J. Adler
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >