In his ground breaking book A Whole New Mind Daniel Pink references three prevailing trends pointing towards the future of business and the economy: Abundance (consumers have too many choices, nothing is scarce), Asia (everything that can be outsourced, is) and Automation (computerization, robots, technology, processes).
This brings up three crucial questions for the success of any business:
- Can a computer do it faster?
- Is what I’m offering in demand in an age of abundance?
- Can someone overseas do it cheaper?
When these questions are present, creativity becomes the competitive difference that can differentiate commodities. Pink outlines six essential senses:
- Design – Moving beyond function to engage the sense.
- Story – Narrative added to products and services – not just argument.
- Symphony – Adding invention and big picture thinking (not just detail focus).
- Empathy – Going beyond logic and engaging emotion and intuition.
- Play – Bringing humour and light-heartedness to business and products.
- Meaning – Relevant feelings and values connected to a person’s passion and purpose..
Playing Mantis specialises in both story and play.
Story is the skill to simplify that which is complex and organise it into a sense making whole. It also helps you to make concrete those aspects of your reality that is abstract and hard to grasp. When it comes to relationships and team work, the way that story places characters in sense making relationships with one another highlighting the causes of conflict and their resolution, can be of great help in managing business relationships.
Similarly the way in which storytellers organises human attributes and role functions into archetypes, can be of great use in understanding the different roles people play in your life. Stories can also assist you in understanding how you can develop your own character by looking at how the hero of a story grows and develops. This can greatly assist in leadership skills development.
What makes this sense so accessible is the fact that we all already use it. The way in which you relate your day and how it went to your partner before bedtime, the way in which you tell a colleague about your weekend or how you sum up an overseas trip all carry the characteristics of a well made story. You pick a theme and select scenes to support and carry that theme. You populate your story with characters that either worked with or against you. You shape it with a beginning middle and end. In fact, any experience can be made sense of in retrospect by organising it into a story, Even the most confusing and emotional experiences, perhaps especially these experiences, are made sense of by trying to organise it into a story.
Story is also the way in which we remember things and make sense of the world by linking seemingly unrelated events and ideas. Simple lists of facts do not make sense to us, but linking them with cause and effect turn the facts into one story and makes it memorable. The king died and then the queen died, are two seemingly unrelated facts, but saying that the king died and then the queen died of grief, immediately makes it into a story by adding an emotional component that link the two facts logically. We all do this with things we read and learn and experience. It is a sense well worth cultivating and understanding so that its power can be utilised in areas of our lives where meaning still escape us.
Play, on the other hand, is the most effective way of learning, working and enjoying it. It is the way in which children learn. It is their method of organising their worlds into sense making sections. Through play they discover how the world works and what their own place in it is. And while their games are fun and light-hearted, they take it very seriously. Improvisational Theatre utilises the same characteristics of play in a way that makes it accessible and usable for adults. Through this kind of play it is possible to learn how to deal with things that happen in your life that is hard to make sense of – especially if the situation ask you to change how you have done things or understood things until now.
Again improvisation is something we all are able to do in ordinary circumstances. When unforeseen things happen and you have to adjust your plan, you improvise. When someone asks you a question you sort of know the answer to, but not quite, you improvise. When you are cooking and discover that you miss a certain ingredient, you improvise. You use what you have and, maybe more importantly, you use what others have to offer. Honing these skills can greatly help you in dealing with change and uncertainty so that you are less apprehensive and are able to trust you own ability to adjust.
Perhaps even more poignant is that improvisation helps you to remain light-hearted and playful amidst times of stress and confusion. The playful attitude is not the same as being frivolous and superficial, but rather one of great seriousness, but with a certain detachment to the outcome. Think again of the seriousness with which children engage in play. To them it is not at all unimportant and inconsequential. Marrying work and play is the goal of cultivating the sense of play in business..
The other four senses of empathy, symphony, design and meaning all are cultivated during the workshops where we create a creative experience for learning. This experience aims to involve all of the multiple intelligences including emotion (empathy), sprit (meaning,), lateral thinking (symphony) and aesthetic judgement (design)
Summary of benefits:
The most important reasons for using story and improvisation both for team building and for dealing with change relate to the kind of play that is stimulated by these activities. This kind of play
- Unlocks hidden potential, opens up all your intelligences and puts you in touch with your instinct and intuition,
- Enhances focus and effectiveness and provides a sense of purpose which is absorbing and motivating,
- Raises self esteem and self confidence and rekindles your spontaneity,
- Inspires individual and group creativity, forms a communal paradigm and lets group knowledge surface,
- Provides understanding and insight into fellow players and creates common focus and priorities while allowing for the safe expression of feelings,
- Clarifies and simplifies things that are abstract and complicated and produces innovative solutions.