Rochelle T. Mucha, in her new book, Aesthetic Intelligence: Reclaim the Power of Your Senses, answers this question by examining how principles and practices of performing arts can be used to strengthen alignment, leadership, learning, and performance in organizations.
“The theatre is a place where players both on stage and behind the scenes share a common goal, are passionate and energetic, play well with others, are not just open to new thoughts but seek them out, give and receive feedback often, experiment without fear and take pride in their interdependency.”
Mucha asserts this culture of connection and creativity is precisely what leaders and managers in organizations need to nurture innovation and ensure robust relationships.
I wonder how much intelligence gets lost, when we don’t use all our senses. We need to reclaim the wisdom of Aesthetic Intelligence and Mucha shows you how, through case studies, lessons, coaching questions, and practical tips.
Here is an Excerpt from Aesthetic Intelligence:
Aesthetic Intelligence was born out of my research with theatre. I had discovered a deeply embedded culture that would be the envy of any business organization. It was a world where ego, self-direction, and individuality aptly describe the players; respect, connection, and interdependency, describe how they play.
At the same time, I recognized that there were two critical and ongoing imperatives for business today that transcend daily news headlines.
- To cultivate an environment of connection and creativity, leading to innovation.
- To develop robust and healthy relationships in a diverse and global marketplace.
Addressing these imperatives demands a cultural environment that most businesses have failed to create, a culture characterized by the very attributes that define the world of performing arts. A place where players, on stage and behind the scenes share a common goal, are passionate and energetic, play well with others, are not just open to new thoughts, but seek them out, give and receive feedback often, experiment without fear, and take pride in their interdependency.
This premise set the stage for my expansive collaboration with Dr. Constance Goodwin. We were authoring a conference paper, and when we probed deeper beyond the superficial methods and metaphors of the artist’s world, we discovered the underpinnings of the culture.
Deep listening. Intentional characterization. Ability to synthesize and act in real time. It was during our lively exchanges that Aesthetic Intelligence was born. The basic elements of Aesthetic Intelligence are Presence, Authenticity, and Synthesis.
Presence enables us to listen deeply. Presence challenges us to suspend our routine thoughts and allow for the emergent. Presence necessitates that we become aware of ourselves, our innermost thoughts as well as the surrounding environment. With this capacity, we are viscerally in touch with what we are feeling, and seek to know why. We witness our impact and experience on others. We recognize, accept, and embrace people and ideas. We are in a state of inquiry, not advocacy, or defense. When present, the emergent becomes a source of surprise, energy, connection, inspiration, and creativity.
Authenticity is about intentional characterization, thinking and preparing for who you have to be, for that audience, for that purpose, at that time. For each role, the individual must bring himself or herself authentically and deliver the performance authentically for their audience, tapping their vast reservoir of personal experiences and bundling his or her skill sets appropriately. Characterization is not pretending to be someone you are not – it is being you, and being believable in the various roles and scenes you engage with. It is not manipulation; it is critical versatility, it is deliberate.
Synthesis is the natural outcome of presence, being available to access and absorb while authentically in character. Synthesis is a time of action in real time. It is a time of decision making. It is felt, heard, and seen.
To be Aesthetically Intelligent is to fully engage our senses—to see, hear, touch, smell, taste, and intuit—in our interactions. Sensory knowing defines how we learn as infants and through our toddler years. Unfortunately, through socialization and education, we sadly and unknowingly relinquish the power of our senses to conform to traditional and narrower ways of knowing and being.
Reclaiming the power and potential of utilizing all our senses, the big five plus one—intuition—is the essence of Aesthetic Intelligence. Most may associate the term “aesthetic” with beauty, but the root of the word aesthetic refers to the employment of our senses. And when we do this, we release ourselves from the shackles of mindless experiences and, consequently, constrained decision-making, problem solving, and creativity.
Why just hear, when we can see, smell, taste, touch, and, of course, intuit? Why settle on being rational when we can embrace what is relational, emotional, social, and physical? We understand the world through our senses, and it is through our senses that we perceive. Each day offers an abundance of perceptions that ignite a tapestry of sensual responses. Imagine the richness of experience that awaits you if you consciously employ the senses available to you, transforming daily experiences into meaningful knowing, being, and doing.
Aesthetic Intelligence introduces a fresh way to think about how to optimize our individual and organizational performance. Aesthetic Intelligence makes the option of learning from the arts available to all of us, no matter how ‘unartsy’ we think we are. More importantly, Aesthetic Intelligence embodies the very skills and behaviors required to cultivate an environment of creativity and innovation as well as develop robust and healthy relationships in a diverse and ever-changing global marketplace. Learning and embedding these capacities could indeed transform a culture and enable business leaders and organizations to better tackle long-standing, universal, challenges and opportunities.
The intersection of business and the performing arts reveals new ways of thinking about living and work. There is much to learn and I believe we have only just begun.
Performance is a work in progress!
Rochelle T. Mucha Ph.D. is the founder of Business as Performance Art™, a consulting firm that focuses on strategic leadership, learning, and change.
Aesthetic Intelligence is available at Amazon.