Blog: Living in a VUCA world. In this case..St Petersburg May 2015

Attending a conference on behalf of iNTG in St Petersburg, Russia

http://i-ntg.com/who/who.html

First ‘gig’ since signing up to be Associate at The Judge Business School, University of Cambridge where I will be delivering new initiatives around Creative engagement particularly focusing on how creativity can play an increasingly important role in the dynamics of Executive Education delivery.

http://www.jbs.cam.ac.uk/programmes/execed/

The two-day conference is on Organisational Development for large Russian and International Companies in St Petersburg project is ran by HR Club:

https://www.linkedin.com/grp/home?gid=4107262

The two days are challenging – working on the themes of VUCA

Originally designed for Military use in assessing challenging scenarios this has ben re-applied to a Business development context

VUCA stands for VOLATILITY, UNCERTAINTY, COMPLEXITY, AMBIGUITY

I develop and present a programme around these themes – and a way for businesses to approach these challenges.

Working with three Russian actors from local IMPROV group is fun and challenging:

So – back ground to VUCA:

Volatility—The nature, speed, volume, magnitude, and dynamics of change

Uncertainty—The lack of predictability of issues and events

Complexity—The confounding of issues and the chaos that surrounds any organization

Ambiguity—The haziness of reality and the mixed meanings of conditions!

The capacity for VUCA leadership in strategic and operating terms depends on a well-developed mindset for gauging the technical, social, political, market and economic realities of the environment in which people work

Sense-Making

Planning and Readiness Considerations

Process Management and Resource Systems

Functional Responsiveness

For Volatile Situations…

  • Communicate clearly
  • Ensure your intent is understood

For Uncertain Situations…

  • Get a fresh perspective
  • Be flexible

For Complex Situations…

  • Develop collaborative leaders
  • Stop seeking permanent solutions

For Ambiguous Situations…

  • Listen well
  • Think divergently
  • Set up incremental dividends

And my thoughts and context

“if you’re not living on the edge you are taking up too much room”

A VUCA world is a complex world. How do we cope with such a world, saturated with corporate visions, missions and strategies, pushing us into one-direction with inflexible slow response thinking?

We have to strive for clear simple, fast and flexible decision making. We have to empower employees to take ownership for this decision-making. This includes encouraging creativity and imagination.

If we don’t develop imagination how can we expect people to think?

In any complex world we have to unlock innate creativity as a way of questioning the world and being part of the story but not being at the mercy of micro- or macro- economic or social events. We have to encourage corporate strategic thinking of course, but also flexibility, fast thinking and individualism.

We need to encourage a “Heads-up, Hearts in Culture” where employees are individuals with a creative mind-set yet still involved in ‘the team’ and understand how they can positively influence it.

To survive in VUCA world we need to focus on creative and imaginative dynamics, understand the nature of decision making and how to devolve decision making to the grass roots encouraging, positive, creative communication within organisations.

Ultimately VUCA survival is about how people can work together towards a common goal and strategy whilst retaining individual identity and influence.

Make clear decisions quickly… be ready, be responsive, be real!

Through exercises, scenarios and videos – including my old favourite the Orchestra and IMPROV.

We bring it all to life and really seen how improved performance can effect change…

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Blog: Living in a VUCA world. In this case… St Petersburg

Attending a conference on behalf of iNTG in St Petersburg, Russia

http://i-ntg.com/who/who.html

First ‘gig’ since signing up to be Associate at The Judge Business School, University of Cambridge where I will be delivering new initiatives around Creative engagement particularly focusing on how creativity can play an increasingly important role in the dynamics of Executive Education delivery.

http://www.jbs.cam.ac.uk/programmes/execed/

The two-day conference is on Organisational Development for large Russian and International Companies in St Petersburg project is ran by HR Club:

https://www.linkedin.com/grp/home?gid=410726

The two days are challenging – working on the themes of VUCA

Originally designed for Military use in assessing challenging scenarios this has ben re-applied to a Business development context

VUCA stands for VOLATILITY, UNCERTAINTY, COMPLEXITY, AMBIGUITY

I develop and present a programme around these themes – and a way for businesses to approach these challenges.

Working with three Russian actors from local IMPROV group is fun and challenging:

So – back ground to VUCA:

Volatility—The nature, speed, volume, magnitude, and dynamics of change

Uncertainty—The lack of predictability of issues and events

Complexity—The confounding of issues and the chaos that surrounds any organization

Ambiguity—The haziness of reality and the mixed meanings of conditions!

The capacity for VUCA leadership in strategic and operating terms depends on a well-developed mindset for gauging the technical, social, political, market and economic realities of the environment in which people work

Sense-Making

Planning and Readiness Considerations

Process Management and Resource Systems

Functional Responsiveness

For Volatile Situations…

  • Communicate clearly
  • Ensure your intent is understood

For Uncertain Situations…

  • Get a fresh perspective
  • Be flexible

For Complex Situations…

  • Develop collaborative leaders
  • Stop seeking permanent solutions

For Ambiguous Situations…

  • Listen well
  • Think divergently
  • Set up incremental dividends

And my thoughts and context

“if you’re not living on the edge you are taking up too much room”

A VUCA world is a complex world. How do we cope with such a world, saturated with corporate visions, missions and strategies, pushing us into one-direction with inflexible slow response thinking?

We have to strive for clear simple, fast and flexible decision making. We have to empower employees to take ownership for this decision-making. This includes encouraging creativity and imagination.

If we don’t develop imagination how can we expect people to think?

In any complex world we have to unlock innate creativity as a way of questioning the world and being part of the story but not being at the mercy of micro- or macro- economic or social events. We have to encourage corporate strategic thinking of course, but also flexibility, fast thinking and individualism.

We need to encourage a “Heads-up, Hearts in Culture” where employees are individuals with a creative mind-set yet still involved in ‘the team’ and understand how they can positively influence it.

To survive in VUCA world we need to focus on creative and imaginative dynamics, understand the nature of decision making and how to devolve decision making to the grass roots encouraging, positive, creative communication within organisations.

Ultimately VUCA survival is about how people can work together towards a common goal and strategy whilst retaining individual identity and influence.

Make clear decisions quickly… be ready, be responsive, be real!

Through exercises, scenarios and videos – including my old favourite the Orchestra and IMPROV.

We bring it all to life and really seen how improved performance can effect change.

Actors in Business Improv

Blog: THE ART OF BRUT AND WAR: Prague

On the way to Brno for Encounter Festival…

http://www.encounter.cz/en/

I stopped for a night in Prague and went to DOX to see a new exhibition : ART BRUT and a nearly new play 1914 by ROBERT WILSON

Both interestingly challenged norms – first ART BRUT at DOX:

DOX is the contemporary arts space in Prague

http://www.dox.cz/en/

Art Brut is described as a form of artistic expression that is inextricably tied to the life of its creators, for whom art is a way of grappling with their existence – of conquering space, taming the body, mastering the mind, or even saving the world…

This is a fabulous exhibition which is a collection of work from collector Bruno Decharme whose interest is in artists working on the margins – (reminds me of the saying “ if you aren’t living on the edge you are taking up too much room”). Many of the exhibitors don’t call themselves artist but their output is of interest and has a powerful dynamic which sits with in and without any mainstream.

http://www.dox.cz/en/exhibitions/art-brut-live-abcd-collection-bruno-decharme

Most if not all of the artists have been institutionalised – prison, asylums, special homes. Many have physical disabilities or mental disorders from deafness to Asperger’s.

The work of Art Brut (which is not a collective but rather a random collection of individuals – just how they would like to be me thinks..) are articulations of fantasies or responses to situations outside of the norm – which create outputs in new frameworks with are truly articulations or stories which sit outside of ‘the norm’.

 

wpid-img-20150503-wa0013.jpg

Reading the works’ associated stories and comprehending context, the art seems to merge with the artist, we comprehend how their brains were/are operating differently to the rules of the norm. From paintings and sculpture; to recycling of a parents ashes (see photo above!) to connecting of seemingly un-connectable objects, it is a whirlwind of output that literally stops you in your tracks.

We all go to galleries, particularly modern art and think why? Or what does that mean? How can I access this concept or why am I being challenges so brutally. I will go with my son to Tate Modern , he will look at a Kandinsky or Duchamp and say what the hell is that meant to be” – or what a waste of time or in the case of Duchamp…what a pile of sh*t.

In Art Brut these questions are already answered it is all mental – literally the work is crazy… which makes it interesting, challenging, heart-breaking and brutal I question some of the natural aesthetics or skill of making and yet the objects have such resonance that their beauty or cruelty outweighs their physical manifestations to let us into and be challenged but artists on the margin.

A remarkable exhibition.

In addition to this is the intriguing sculpture of Lukas Rittenstein’s sculptural series entitled Highway

http://www.dox.cz/en/exhibitions/barbora-slapetova-lukas-rittstein-everything-is-different

wpid-img-20150503-wa0007.jpg

 

Who moulds and melds old cars and vehicles with elements of nature – most dramatically big birds.. strange yet soothing somehow it is vast and clearly articulate work. Odd but rooted

National Theatre Production 1914

Working in the mainstream but challenging our thinking is Robert Wilson’s version of 1914 a play with music in a burlesque cabaret style which looks at the episodes leading up to and incorporating the outbreak of WW1.

http://www.narodni-divadlo.cz/en/show/6297?t=2014-04-30-19-00

All very vogue of course – the best piece of work by far I have seen on this subject area not being the somewhat tedious RSC production The Christmas Truce nor this production, but the Soundrama play The War which was performed as part of The Edinburgh International Festival 2014. The War (see previous Edinburgh Blog) was an EPIC piece of work with a solid single story.

http://www.eif.co.uk/2014/thewar#.VX26sFVViko

1914 somehow managed to be less EPIC and less engaging. It was fabulously ‘cartoonish’ and minimalist with its brutal lighting white faced characters and symbolic movement. The world was odd yet recognisable and the action intriguing but not so interesting.

The stakes were high – but not high enough, the action interesting but…

The actors were good and the evening puzzling and intriguing but it left me cold and unconcerned.

The parallels with ART  BRUT was interesting. 1914 seems mainstream even though the characters were being pushed to the edge by the pressure of looming war.

Sterile, yet still enjoyable (entertaining) the work was more conscious and less inspiring perhaps than our marginalised artists..?

 

BLOG: RUSSIA: Better “With Hope” or “Better Together”?

2nd Day in St Petersburg…

The highlight of my visit to Pulkovo airport in St Petersburg yesterday was to visit the head of The Corporate University ; Ludmila and the HR Director Yana.

Yana had worked with me on the Pulkovo team development in Iceland but had not been to the Blue Lagoon trip (see previous blog!) so I kept my clothes on for the entire meeting!

The office for the meeting had a huge window with a panoramic view across fields to some roads. At the intersection of the roads was a giant billboard sign. Yana told me that the sign was owned by a newspaper and always had different sayings written on it. Up until the day before written in giant letters had been: Russia – “Full of Hope” But yesterday it was changed to “Russia: Together.”

I am sure this statement carries much double meaning as the economic and political shifts are taking place. One thing is for certain – throughout my entire trip these were the two topics of conversations – Ukraine and The collapse of the Rouble on the global markets. Interestingly everyone seemed to talk of hope and not fear. Of trepidation not panic. Where news comes from and how it is disseminated is also a common topic. However there is an implicit trust in the charismatic Putin and despite negative comments most people seemed to have this trust as opposed to fear around his actions.

 

One meeting I had over the weekend was with a colleague Olga who described Putin’s performance at the recent meeting about Ukraine with Hollande and Merkel. Olga had been listening to a radio commentary of the meeting in which a commentator had deconstructed Putin, Merkel and Hollande’s body language. One conclusion was that Putin was the defiant King – the strong confident leader, with Merkel battling her frustration and desire to pounce forward and grab him around the neck – with Hollande waiting in the wings to mop the brow of the contestants…

A cartoon illustration of a serious encounter perhaps but nevertheless there is truth in the fact that whilst words may be diplomatic the language of the body can display hidden truths.

This is certainly one area of theatre that I have been able to focus on in business development workshops and programmes. In all the work we have ever done , e have looked at Archetypes (King Hero, Mother, Innocent, Trickster and Fool) and how they are articulated visually as well as psychologically. The most obvious example of this has been in our EPIC programme where we breakdown dynamics of formal and informal communication into Body Mind and Voice with actors focusing on the Body language and vocal technique and me pulling other the whole picture or story.

Interestingly I am not sure that Mr Putin has been on one of my EPIC courses – but places are available!

And as Aristotle taught many politicians if you want people to believe you – you need both Evidence and Artistic Persuasion. And maybe Russia needs both … Hope and Togetherness ??

P.S.

This blog was written three days before the murder of Nemstov.. more reflections to follow

 

 

 

Paul’s Blog: St Petersburg: “I didn’t recognise you with your clothes on” … an Icelandic Peace Treaty”

En route to St Petersburg….

Activity; both theatre and training has severely dropped off in Russia.

I hope to be back teaching at Meyerhold Theatre Leaders School in Moscow soon – but who knows.

http://a-a-ah.com/tsentr-im-meyerhold

I have been teaching at Meyerhold for last three years at The Theatre Leaders School but times are tough so may not be back! The Rouble has literally halved in value so now I am twice as expensive!

We at Menagerie (http://www.menagerie.uk.com/) are also hoping to tour our new play bloominauschwitz (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyyXfzieAOg) to Russia but again economics make it almost impossible at the moment – ah well you can see bloom on tour in the UK and various parts of Europe in May and June!

I actually can’t wait for ‘bloom’ – what an extraordinary configuration of James Joyce’s Ulysses and the idea of Concentration camp tourism (with jokes!) let’s see how it pans out … but it should be a triumph and hopefully one which will see us touring it…in Russia even!

Today I will be visiting staff at Pulkovo airport in St Petersburg

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulkovo_Airport) the new international terminal, before hooking up with colleagues Ludmila Murgulets and Olaf Hauer my partners in the Russian training company iNTG (see photo of me looking very arty – off into space!)

http://i-ntg.com/who/who.html

We worked with Pulkovo last year when the creative team-building exercises we facilitated took place in Reykjavik. It was really like being in some kind of Cold War Peace treaty scenario – half the group was Russian, the other half German and together they were building a new airport in St Petersburg!

And there we were – the iNTG team plus actors Jasmine Hyde and Mark Oosterveen from the UK – all in Iceland, all trying to broker peace through the power of theatre!

It was truly bizarre but also lots of fun. Mark and Jasmine had recently finished a run of the Menagerie play Why Can’t We Live Together? In London

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAm_TkShB_E

So they were a tight acting couple and we used this to work scenes, show characters and build up a communication skill set for our Russian /German delegation… For Jasmine it was an experience she had been through before working with us in Dubai and Hong Kong but for Mark it was – what the F**k am I doing??!? Is this an acting workshop or an audition to be in an episode from The Office ??!? The answer was probably … a bit of both.

But as always the objective was to challenge thinking, stretch minds and engage hearts … and working with actors as good as Mark and Jas does really bring things to life as well as adding a spark and positive dynamic into the whole training experience. Essentially bringing a bit of drama into what can be a mundane learning experience.

I can guarantee that when I meet the folks from Pulkovo later today that they will remember many of the activities we undertook and hopefully will have retained and used some of the learning –we will see; maybe they won’t even recognise me! Or maybe I will have to take my clothes off for them to remember me ????

…. bizarrely after our training sessions in Iceland the whole group went to The Blue Lagoon where we stripped off and got into the warm waters… it was certainly a different ending to most training – half naked soaking wet and drinking a beer. Actually this is how most of our training sessions end up..!

So we will see how the Russian market is shaping up and hold our breath for future opportunities half naked or otherwise …

PAUL’S BLOG Russia: Culture Clash at the Consulate!

Following on from our anti-bullying theatre project in Germany (see previous post) it reminds me of a classic scenario from May last year …

…running training for The British Consulate in St Petersburg, focussing on Bullying and Harassment in the workplace (how did I ever get here..?).

This is a serious issue for many companies and organisations (whether they know it or not..) but somehow it just makes me smile… Bullying and Harassment for the British Consulate..??!!

Staff surveys at The Consulate in Moscow and St Petersburg show there is an issue. This is not unusual nor surprising. And actually the fact they are addressing it is positive and unusual. When you dig a little the idea of harassment is not so much dignity based but more about workload and expectations placed upon each other and of course the dynamics of workplace culture.

Culture clashes are most interesting I find with organisations that work internationally. Bullying and harassment is very interesting when it comes to mixed cultures… what goes for acceptable in Italy is going to cause great angst in UAE… most cultures create a positive collision rather than a clash but it is always interesting. I found this working on projects in Romania, South Africa and Central Europe with international partners having very different expectations of behaviours, but the Russian/UK work cultures provide particularly challenging scenarios

Most staff working in The Consulate will be Russian. They will speak English of course, and most of their interaction will be with fellow Russians both in the workplace and with the public.

So as a theatre director coming in and not an expert in B & H I have to do my research …Particularly on the legal situation. The legal employment contracts in Consulate are Russian but influenced by British standards and thinking. Feedback during the session is that Russian employment law is lacking focus on areas such as Bullying and Harassment so the boundaries here are blurred. This is clearly part of the challenge. What are the rules and how are they interpreted (literally) and enforced?

My workshop time is limited to just under two hours. So all I can do in this short time is look at case studies, challenge thinking, and get some personal pledges in place. Mostly it is about un-blurring the edges of acceptability. It is a bit like “I can’t define it but I know it when I see it” (as in Potter Stewart The United States Supreme Court Justice on his definition of Pornography…)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_know_it_when_I_see_it

However we have to create some firmer rules of ‘engagement’ as well as support a culture shift.

Most people can broadly define Bullying and Harassment but as you focus down into specifics then personalities and context get in the picture and definitions of acceptability become more challenging. One interesting area that came up was workload – was it bullying to get people to work late or ask them to come in on the weekend to complete work ? for some no, for others yes – it is about the amount of workload, how it is managed, how it is shared out and most of all expectations and communicating with each other.

For me this subject comes down to broad understanding for an organisation then specific context for individuals – it is about creating a culture where people have empathy and understanding and where perception is taken into consideration as well as rules.

It comes back to the core fundamentals of all organisations and people that work for them – can you bring to life two key dynamics;

  1. Have a great attitude
  2. Do the right thing

In the world of B and H the second dynamic is key…

I left with them inspired (I hope) to at least focus on the one thing they can control – look after themselves – and if they are bullies (real or perceived) to challenge their own behaviour…

I would tell you more – but then I’d have to kill you…

 

Blog: No Poo? Well bully for you!

We are currently working on an interactive theatre piece in Germany.

It is truly right up there in terms of bizarre ..

So … I have been several times to Germany (alone and with Playwright Craig Baxter) to visit US Army military bases where we are delivering an interactive workshop and play script around bullying!?!

Designed for Middle and High School aged children this is an opportunity to bring youngsters from military families together to watch a play then to ‘forum the action’.

The script is finished, the workshop designed and piloted – all we have to do now is put it in front of kids. If it works it will then be rolled out as an interactive education package that will be developed for Military communities all over Europe then hopefully in The States.

It is a pretty simple model whereby the youngsters get to own the action. One of the key factors is that the performers of the script are local actors (to each community), who themselves may have experienced or been exposed to Bullying.

The approach thematically has been to be universal – with some tweaks specifically for the military context – extended periods of parental separation, stress of environment and dynamic of rank and status. But mostly we have tried to put together a fun universal piece – which as far as I can tell is the first play Craig has ever written which does not involve poo – well not yet anyway!

The interactive activity is of course adapted from our working knowledge of Augusto Boal’s Theatre Of The Oppressed

http://www.theatreoftheoppressed.org/en/index.php?useFlash=1

The power of ownership of ideas sits very much in the centre of my whole approach to using theatre as a tool for engagement – get people involved, get them caring, get them challenging the material and each other and you have a dynamic which has value, depth and impact.

We will see how the project pans out but right now it looks like it will work well – and it actually feels pretty good to be doing a piece which can make a difference to young people who are bullies or being bullied. Certainly as the parent of two teenage children I can see the pressure youngsters are under particularly with cyber-bullying. This element features heavily within our workshop performance – and if we can raise awareness and the participants can establish tactics to prevent and counter cyber-bullying then that has to be a good thing.

Certainly this project is one of those “How the hell did I ever get here?” scenarios… on an American Military base in Germany helping teenagers to not send abusive messages on Instagram!?!

… and as Craig said during our second visit – how the hell did you ever bully me into doing this project .. “ Craig, just fucking do it, or else…”