Supposing you sent a group of artists, actors, musicians and poets into a corporate business – on a mission to entertain, provoke, inspire, teach and challenge people to experiment with new ways of thinking, acting and communicating.
How would the staff respond?
What difference would it make to the individuals who took part?
What impact would it have on teams and departments?
How would it affect the organisational culture?
Could you measure an impact on the bottom line?
These are some of the questions that went into a research project on Using the Arts in Business that I was pleased to manage for Arts & Business over a period of 18 months. I worked closely with Simon Cronshaw, who was then head of Research, Evaluation and Information, and the research was conducted by Professor Giovanni Schiuma, an expert in organisational culture and change who is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Cranfield School of Management.
The research had a solid academic foundation, but was certainly not restricted to theory — we spent a lot of time in the company of artists who work with large corporations in exactly the way I’ve outlined above. They lead workshops, interactive drama productions, training events and even major organisational change programmes. Their work falls under the heading of arts-based initiatives, and is a fascinating cross-fertilisation of creative and commercial cultures.
We were also fortunate enough to speak to senior managers from organisations who had commissioned arts-based initiatives, and were keen to discuss the benefits to their business.
Some of the research findings have just been published in the form of a report which you can download from the arts and business website: Mapping Arts-Based Initiatives by Giovanni Schiuma. You can also watch a video of Giovanni presenting the research findings.
If you visit the Arts & Business website, you can listen to a series of interviews with the arts-based practitioners who took part — including two interviews I recorded myself.
The first interview was with Tom Conway, Managing Director of the market research agency Spinach, and Martin Gent, an artist and actor who is Director of Creativity at Spinach. The two have been working together for several years, in a very unusual arrangement whereby an artistic practitioner works at the heart of an organisation, not as a consultant or visitor. Interview explores the dynamics of their working relationship, and what each has learned, as well as the business benefits to Spinach.
The second interview was with Sam Bond of tradesecrets, where he discussed his extensive experience of delivering arts-based interventions across a range of organisational settings. Sam is a lovely guy, with an engaging and dynamic presence; he’s one of the few people I’ve met who seems equally comfortable and authoritative when discussing fine art or corporate culture.
Thanks to Sam, Tom and Martin for their generous help, as well as to the other arts practitioners and organisations who took part — do check out their websites, they feature stories, images and videos that paint a vivid picture of this fascinating area of creative business.
Sam Bond and Aidan Elliot, tradesecrets
Paul Bourne, Menagerie Theatre Company
Duncan Bruce, The Brand Conspiracy
Geoff Church, Dramatic Resources
Peter Feroze, The Creative Knowledge Company
Martin Gent, Spinach and The Map Consortium
Richard Hahlo, Dramatic Resources
Chris Higgins, The Map Consortium
Martin Holme, Spider and Givaudin
Piers Ibbotson, Directing Creativity
Tom Morley, Instant Teamwork
Tim Stockil, CI: Creative Intelligence
I hope you enjoy the interviews — and feel free to download and share the research report, which contains a new model of interventions and organisational change which I believe will be valuable to any company looking to do things differently.
Many thanks to Arts & Business for inviting me to manage the project, and to the organisations who shared their experiences and learnings. And special thanks to Simon and Giovanni for being such good fun to work with.