Last June I was invited to open the Q&A Summit on Growing and Scaling Business.
It is not rare that people attending business gatherings look surprised when a poet shows up on stage. Some of them might think it is a form of entertainment, others think it is just a moment of inspiration; then, they learn something about themselves and how to create and lead innovative and inclusive businesses.
Every time I speak at a business conference (every single time) I am asked : “Why poetry and business?” My answer is: “Why not?” I know it is not something very common and, especially, I know it is not something we are taught.
The separation between arts and science or, humanities and STEM, is only recent history and probably (my personal assumption) the outcome of the industrial age. Art and science might seem like polar opposites. For those of us working at the intersection of both fields the similarities between how artists and scientists work far outweigh their stereotypical differences. Both are dedicated to asking the big questions, both seek for truth and resolution. The scientist’s lab. as the artist’s studio are the playground for inquiry, learning and wonder.
I believe in the power of poetry to expand our awareness and capacity to engage the human condition. Poetry supports the practice of empathy as deep respect and concern for the intense mystery of any living being. Aren’t both, awareness and empathy, critical to business? Strategy, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, to name just a few, when done well, are grounded in the human capacity to feel empathy and in the awareness of self and the world that surrounds us.
Business executives (we all) are demanded to live in multifaceted, dynamic, fast changing environments. Their challenge is to distill harmony out of chaos. Poetry educates and expands this capacity by bringing the gift and the opportunity to hold paradoxes and complexities while seeking for resolution.
At the Q&A Summit when asked about my recipe to grow business I have shared 3 critical ingredients:
Ability to Listen: We need to learn how to listen with all of our body to what is being asked of us and from us if we want to deliver on the promises of our business. Listening opens the door to a dialogue (flow of meaning) and to the potential of meeting each other where nobody was when they started.
Care: Too often I see entrepreneurs or executive caring more about the solutions or offers their businesses propose than about the problems they are trying to solve or the people they want to serve. Max De Pree wrote in Leadership is an Art : “In many areas of business, sadly, “to care” is an innovation.” He wrote the book in 1987 and sadly 30 years later caring is still a business unmet innovative space.
Courage: without it all other virtues have no soil where to grow. The great poet Maya Angelou defined Courage as the first virtue. “Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”
Poetry has helped me to listen even to silence and give it a voice. It has showed me that by caring I could learn and embrace all those facets (within me and others) that otherwise I would have excluded or tried to control. It took a lot of courage out of me, I didn’t know it was within me.
I believe that the future of business is in the power of remembering our humanity and re-imagining it through poetry and the arts in general (I have written about it here). What do you think?
RNEWB offers a robust diversity of experiences, talks, workshops and programs that use storytelling, poetry and heARTistry in an innovative and yet practical methodology. Our work has guided leaders and teams to reach their goals, tap into their creativity, broaden their awareness and improve trust within the organisations they lead. For more information please feel free to get in contact.