Can Art Improve Our Organizations’ Well being?
Updated: Oct 1, 2022
Article created in collaboration with the podcast participants and AcornOak Tribe.
Pass the Mic Podcast Series is an unscripted group discussion born out of AcornOak’s belief in the power of many voices.
Each episode begins with one expert - an open-minded and passionate individual who has spent a great deal of time investigating and researching a certain topic. During our hour, a small group of 4 to 6 people explores complex and difficult concepts with curiosity, uncertain beliefs and the willingness to objectively listen and learn from the shared insights of others.
Our eleventh episode discusses the topic of Art with an attempt to discuss: What is the role of art in the well-being of an organization?
Starting the Conversation
As the podcast host, Virginie Glaenzer paved the way for this conversation, led by Fateme Banishoeib, to explore how bringing the arts and humanities into business gives access to a deeper dialogue and co-creation of practices, processes, and tools that support our progress and evolution - while shifting away from the current assembly line-based business model.
Welcoming Our Guests
We were honored to welcome our panel of special guests eager to discuss the practice of the arts in the workplace to resolve the illness affecting business.
Fateme Banishoeib is a business heARTist and Founder of ReNEWBusiness, a collective creative laboratory that guides visionary leaders and organizations to transform business into inclusive, innovative communities. Together, they create cultures of inclusion, evoke leadership in everyone, and amplify engagement. She has overseen quality & operations in numerous corporations globally - from the United States to Europe and Asia . She brings the heart and mind of a polymath to organizational development: a trained chemist’s astute analytic capacity to manage complexity & high quality with a published poet’s human sensibility to inspire the human being at the center of any thriving organization. Fateme is a TEDx speaker, published author, and poet. Her collection of poems, The Whisper, charts the journey of leadership of self before the leadership of others.
Andy Zmolek is the founder of a startup currently in stealth mode. He is also a fractal pattern topologist orchestrating value flow across human networks. Andy is an expert guide for clients who need a trusted digital transformation partner fluent in the latest advances on psychology, neuroscience, and technology with the proven ability to unlock value flow. He delivers large-scale digital transformation via ecosystem development for clients that need to move fast.
Chris Kutarna is the best-selling author of Age of Discovery, a TED speaker, and Founder and Co-Creator of re•base, a global movement to re-base humanity through a series of connecting basecamps, where the “mixing that is missing” convenes to summit society’s greatest challenges, together. He strives to make sense of the time we live in and to see where we're headed.
John Caswell is the Head Of Crayons, Founder and CEO of Group Partners, where he makes strategies that work by using Structured Visual Thinking™ to exploit opportunities and solve complex challenges. John’s experience, tools, and techniques help his clients to completely reimagine their business. He is passionate about developing executable and resilient solutions to solve 21st Century business problems.
Listen to the tour de table introduction of our participants.
Key Shared Insights & Perspectives
Fateme introduced the discussion with the idea that “Work is the theater for life to realize our dreams.” Yet, with our obsession for solutions, models and data, and our over-rationalization of things, has resulted in a broken business model.
Going forward, we must engage in deeper conversations to transform what we do and tap urgently into imagination, intuition, self expression to solve our organizations’ problems.
Listen to Fateme Banishoeib presenting another way to think about work and society.
Refraining The Role of Art
Progressive leaders and organizations have shown an increased willingness to play and to try unconventional approaches to the work in front of them, especially where traditional approaches haven’t worked.
Many executives, however, still have a strong bias around art and who is allowed to be creative within organizations. Our panel stressed the importance of relabeling art by finding words that promote openness and push past objections to using art as a catalyst for change.
As an example, John shares his own experience calling his visual storytelling ability and art a “framework of critical thinking” so his clients will be more receptive to hearing his message.
If we want to overcome resistance, we must break our bias around art and creative skills and be open to allowing artful approaches and critical thinking to co-exist at work.
Listen to Andy Zmolek sharing his view on the opportunity to reframe ideas and preconceptions we hold on the topic of art within our organization.
Well-Being Versus Well-Doing
Introducing art into work can cause tensions that stem from the separation of the human being from the human doing in the workplace.
In our business world, most senior leaders define their own value based on their ability to efficiently solve problems. These “execution engines” want to know: What problem are we trying to solve?
But artists ask a very different question: What world do we want to create?
Art is the opposite of what business doers and problem solvers manifest because they are about uncertainty. Bringing art into an organization improves its well-being by connecting the human being with the human doing, but it requires a shift away from an objective-driven focus toward a purpose-driven focus.
Listen to Christopher Kutarna sharing his perspectives.
Since injecting art into an organization can cause tension, like any other of novel idea can cause resistance, it requires a bridging leader who gives others space to overcome their limiting perspectives.
Bridging leadership is the ability to hold contradictory and ambiguous concepts at the same time and is often used in conflict negotiation.
A change agent with artistry and linguistic skill as well as creativity and craft across multiple disciplines can create a new “illegible” space that allows them to maneuver and bridge the gap between the rational and creative realms.
Organizations need leaders who combine the ability to manage projects and crunch data with the mastery of language, artistry, and creativity to foster trust and take them on a slightly different journey.
Listen to John Caswell sharing his perspective on how to bring artistry into organizations through pre-nostalgia feelings.
As we came at the end of the hour, our group concluded the discussion in the same way we started, with a tour de table.
Each participant had the opportunity to reflect on what they heard and share their take-aways from the conversation.
Listen to the last 10 minutes of the episode.
Final Thoughts to Consider
Our current awareness about work is impoverished. We must imagine ways to enrich it by growing spaces where we can think and act in richer, more complex ways.
Artistic perspective delivers value and contributes to the well-being of workers and organizations by opening our eyes to enhanced possibilities and journeys.
So, it is time we move from a merely process and data-proven orientation to a more humane approach to business. An approach that is centered around our needs to self-express, contribute, and belong while providing expanded awareness and access to the regenerative power of creativity. Being artists means bringing our whole selves to work, which requires a relaxation of the formality and structures of the traditional work environment and permission to make mistakes.
And as individuals, we are invited to see ourselves as artists and, to engage in a different narrative, we must give ourselves permission to embrace this artist and claim our inherent ability.
"When we think, act, and feel like an artist, we enter into a deeper dialogue with the world and allow for a renewed way of being, which transforms how we do our work." Fateme Banishoeib
The upshot of all this is freedom, expression, and empowerment for employees and leaders.
So, why wouldn’t we practice the arts in workplaces to resolve the illnesses affecting businesses?
You can read Fateme’s blog post “Why The Arts Are Important For The Wellbeing Of An Organisation”.