Painting Gives New Insights in Teams

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35 people from a Danish pharmaceutical company engaged in an arts based process experiencing the dynamics from their everyday work life.

Five women, working together in a laboratory, collaborated on painting the same canvas and very carefully they divided the canvas into five equally sized sections and only painted their own section.

It wasn’t until we interviewed them about their process that they realized they were working on the canvas the exact same way they worked in the laboratory. They all had great respect for each other’s work.

We asked them if they were willing to paint on top of each other’s work to get a better end result. It turned out that they felt uncomfortable about crossing each other’s lines.

The finding for them was that in many cases you need to mix results and give up some of your own work in order to gain a successful result.

Creativity and Co-operation in the Management Team

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Change Management – Langebæk Council

 “The artistic processes offer a unique opportunity to enhance personal and social competencies, such as co-operation, communication, creativity, and the ability to think and act innovatively during periods of change.”

– Michael Nilsson, project coordinator, Langebæk Council

The Challenge

Langebæk Council wished to strengthen its management team, prior to the reorganisation of local government. We hosted a workshop for 27 managers with the objective of reinforcing the managers’ creativity, co-operation skills, and receptiveness to change.

The Activity

“In all types of teamwork, each individual has a major responsibility for making the whole work. This is most obvious in music. The mechanisms and dynamics of a group become audible when they make music together. This provides an ideal opportunity to encourage fruitful group work. Music offers training in active listening, willingness to run risks, trust, timing and dynamism.

– Mia Martinez, singer and dancer

For the workshop we opted to work with improvisation, creativity exercises, and choral singing, culminating in a major collaborative challenge: writing a brand-new piece of musical together – quickly. The programme also incorporated time for reflection, dialogue, and embedding the new insights into future co-operation.”

“The musical task enabled the participants to work together in a different way. They had to work together according to the rules of improvisation, which can be summarised as follows: get the best out of what is at hand.

This provided tangible and practical insights into the importance of being positive and open with one another and listening to each other’s ideas. Quite simply, it produces better results. It’s an experience that the participants can apply directly to their daily work.”

– Michael Nilsson, project coordinator, Langebæk Council

Experience & Effect

“The artistic approach to the process of change meant that the simple musical exercises were a highly valuable experience for the managers, who were not used to relating to diffuse concepts like interaction.

The artist approached some highly challenging processes in a very careful manner, and everybody was afforded the opportunity to take part in a highly realistic exercise.
In that sense, the artistic processes are extremely relevant to the manner in which tasks are performed in a knowledge-based company.

I think that this form of exercise is far more useful than a survival course. The artistic processes offer a unique opportunity to enhance personal and social competencies, such as co-operation, communication, creativity and the ability to think and act innovatively during periods of change.”

– Michael Nilsson, project coordinator, Langebæk Council

Why artists?

“There is a lot of play involved, which has long been documented as an effective method of learning. Other consultants don’t have the same attitude to play as artists do.

It is also very exciting that the tasks present a challenge to people’s ability to co-operate on creative processes. And it requires more courage to overcome mental obstacles than physical limitations.

Whereas some people love change and challenges, others are deeply sceptical. So it was interesting to see that scepticism could be turned to acceptance. In fact, some statements from the evaluation show that some of the people who were initially the most sceptical were subsequently those who were the most positive.

They really thought that the course was useful.”

– Michael Nilsson, project coordinator, Langebæk Council

 

Clear Communication in the Management Team

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Communications training – DONG Energy

“After the workshop, we defined some rules relating to presence, expectations, and conflict resolution. So now
we are working according to collectively agreed rules
that enable us to continue to focus on recognition of each other. It doesn’t cost a great deal and there is much to be gained.”

– Flemming Jensen, Head of Function, DONG Energy

The Challenge

“DONG has two different bases, one 
on Zealand, one in Jutland. Because we’re very busy, and because we are highly focused on the company’s goals and results, we’d forgotten to take care of our inter-relationships.

There had been a few clashes. So it was important that we developed a management team that was less commanding and more internally attentive and receptive to the staff. We wanted to focus on communication – specifically presence, dialogue, and body language.”

– Flemming Jensen, Head of Function, DONG Energy

The Activity

“We had decided that the management group should use their own bodies as a means of experiencing the importance of body language in communication.

This enabled them to both feel and acknowledge how presence and openness affect communication. First, we chose to work with two basic parameters in the interpersonal communication.

One was an understanding of the importance of relationships, the other was the understanding of what an open exchange means for the ability to identify joint solutions.

In the theatre, we deal with telling stories about conflicts – how they arise, how they are expressed, and, especially, their consequences. We know that how we act can both generate and intensify conflict. On the other hand, we also know that words, body language and behaviour are able to reduce or even resolve conflict.

Training as an actor provides insights into how we behave and react to each other.

It can provide a necessary, liberating, and humorous distance that makes it easier to look at your own and other people’s bad habits with patience and understanding.

By acknowledging the importance of interpersonal relations, we can refine our ability to communicate without conflicting messages – but very few of us have the language or the method to do so in a concentrated and professional manner. Those in the acting profession are trained in emotional flexibility and responsiveness.

As mentioned, our aim was that the participants would be able to both feel and acknowledge the importance of communication – so process consultant Anne Friland made sure that they discussed their experiences and placed them into the context of their day-to-day co-operation.”

– Birgitte Dam Jensen, Theatre Director

Experience & Effect

“After the workshop, we defined some rules relating to presence, expectations and conflict resolution.

So now we are working according to collectively agreed rules that enable us to continue to focus on recognition of each other. It doesn’t cost a great deal and there is much to be gained.”

– Flemming Jensen, Head of Function, DONG Energy

Why Artists?

“I think the participatory exercises were very educational. Some of the managers attend a large number of seminars only to hear the same stories over and over. This time, they experienced something new, and they all felt they had had a good day. It was an incredibly positive experience. I’d like to try it again.”

– Flemming Jensen, Head of Function, DONG Energy

The Merger as a New Basis for Collaboration

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Merger & Culture

“Many aspects of the course provided direct inspiration and offered the opportunity to think about future solutions in a different way. It was such a good experience that people mention it all the time.”

– Jesper Kjærulff, director, Langebæk School

The Challenge

As part of the process of amalgamating three schools
into one, the management group wanted the 130 affected members of staff to acknowledge the importance of dialogue, with a particular focus on resources and opportunities.

The Activity

“We worked with music that placed different demands on the group – from small artistic exercises with reflection on co-operation, to choir work, which placed major demands on the participants to work as a group and create music on the spot.

The way we organise our sessions is that I supply the musical input, and Gitte, as process consultant, verbalises the lessons learned and provides a theoretical foundation.

In my exercises is it important that the participants draw on their own experiences. It requires physical involvement and is based on everybody being able to join in and create something together. It’s simple, but challenging.”

– Mia Martinez, singer and dancer

“I wanted some real choir work. I wanted us to experience the feeling of standing and swaying together to the music, the feeling of togetherness and singing with your own voice. That was important for us.

It was also important to get to know one another, to have some shared frames of reference that will shape the way we talk to each other, and to break down some of the grudges, disputes, and prejudices there can be between institutions.”

– Jesper Kjærulff, director, Langebæk School

“The participants first visited my rehearsal room, where they learned how it feels to use the whole body as an instrument, one which is finely tuned and always ready to communicate, and to send and receive energy.

We provided some collective experiences that could be transferred and used in the working day. We gave the group a tangible experience that showed how individuals could collectively create a space that allows great things to happen.

They were able to see new aspects of each other, and experienced a basic human connection that enables them to look one another in the eye and be more open in their future co-operation. One participant had been seen as the complainer of the group for over 15 years. After the workshop, both he and his manager said that he was now seen in a new light, and that their co-operation has significantly improved.”

– Mia Martinez, singer and dancer

 Experience & Effect

“Many aspects of the course provided direct inspiration and offered the opportunity to think about future solutions in a different way. It was such a good experience that people mention it all the time. It has subsequently helped create fertile soil for a management-development project on setting values, which we have set in motion in collaboration with local psychologists – so it has started something of a chain reaction.

It may sound a bit pious but one direct effect was that when term started three or four days later, the staff in the largest institution gathered all of the pupils and parents in the assembly hall – and then got up and sang for them. They had never done that before!”

– Jesper Kjærulff, director, Langebæk School

Why Artists?

“The participants thought the music was fun, and that working differently was exciting. It was important for us that we got tangible experience of exploring brand-new territory together, instead of following traditional school-development methods.

In addition, the inter-relationship between the artistic methods, the value-setting tools and the conversations with the process consultant worked really well. It’s important to have some theory behind what we do. It lends professional weight and offers a way of understanding what is happening. It was really good.”

– Jesper Kjærulff, director, Langebæk School