Orchestrating Collaboration at Work is an activity book for trainers, coaches, mediators and facilitators, who want to use the arts to create transformative learning experiences in organizations.

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This book examines what we can learn from the arts that we can apply to business. All 70 activities are crafted using arts-based principles that offer new insights and skills development in creativity, communication, teamwork, and collaborative leadership. You do NOT have to be an artist to use this book’s offerings!

Painting, poetry, storytelling, music, sculpting and improvisational theater offer innovative and transformative learning experiences. You can use them as quick icebreakers or brainjuicers at meetings or training sessions, and as a means of mediating dialogue to stimulate employee engagement. These activities act as catalysts for conversations that really matter and provide an antidote to information overload.

To provide a context and a rationale for the arts in business, we have included insights, observations, and advice derived from interviews with leading researchers, educators, change agents, artists and practitioners, including: business author Margaret Wheatley, poet David Whyte, actor Richard Olivier, and John Seely Brown,former chief scientist at Xerox PARC

Orchestrating Collaboration at Work will help you:

  • Provide stimulating and effective training exercises
  • Incorporate the content and structure of the arts to resolve business problems
  • Teach specific skills for individual, group, and organizational effectiveness
  • Develop self-awareness, group-awareness and emotional intelligence
  • Prototype possibilities for developing new products / services.
  • Rehearse “what if” options that lead to meaningful insights regarding change.
  • Create an aesthetic experience helps leaders make tacit knowledge visible; e.g. patterns, processes and relationships.
  • Help nurture relationships between dissimilar groups, fostering an appreciation for diverse and pluralistic points of view.
  • Be “Zen present” through ‘artful reflection’

Participants in my workshops have observed that:

“Art can be part of the process of bridging gaps/polarities.”
“Art creates a different kind of conversation than the verbal/cerebral one of the workplace.”
“Painting was an experience of listening with other senses.”
“Art gives us new ways to experience each other.”

Read an excerpt from Chapter 2.

Learn more about our workshops featuring arts based learning for creativity and collaboration:

About the authors:

Arthur B. VanGundy was a pioneer in his work on idea generation techniques and wrote 15 books, including Getting to Innovation (AMACOM, 2007). He specialized in framing organizational innovation challenges and facilitating brainstorming retreats.

Linda Naiman is recognised internationally for pioneering arts-based learning and development in organizations. She helps organizations generate breakthroughs in business performance through coaching, consulting and training.

Book Review:

By Renee Hopkins

This is a hefty book — 265 pages — chock full of exercises that can be used for team building, ice breakers, energizers, and to stimulate creativity, to teach teams to work through change, think strategically, and collaborate more effectively. I downloaded it, printed it out, and had it comb-bound, and now my copy is full of sticky notes on exercises I’ve vowed to try for various client projects and training sessions.

Those who have to defend the use of the arts in business will find a lot of help here as well. The first part of the book lays out the authors’ argument that the arts are just what business needs today.

“Businesses today want to break away from their limitations, aim higher, and be a creative force for good in the world. We need the transformative experiences that the arts give us to thrive in a world of change.”
— Linda Naiman

This section includes interviews with luminaries such as John Seely Brown, and case studies from companies such as the World Bank and Lexis-Nexis. Van Gundy and Naiman did not make up every single exercise — approximately 35 others contributed exercises as well. The resulting variety is a welcome breath of air after the shelves of books available that set forth a theory for creativity and then offer exercises that don’t vary much.

In addition to many exercises, the authors’ contribution is in the extremely useful and clear presentation of these exercises. They’re divided into section according to the art form used — music, drawing, painting, collage, storytelling, improv, poetry, and others. And each one includes a clear statement of the objectives, the uses (team-building, change management, etc.), the time required and materials needed. Bottom line — this is well worth the $48.99. I have spent many times that amount to go to week-long conferences that didn’t give me anywhere near this much useful information that I could take back to my work.

This review was first published Feb 11, 2006 on Renee Hopkins’ blog at

Praise for Orchestrating Collaboration at Work

VanGundy and Naiman bring a unique blend of creativity and art to provide practical techniques for increasing and improving teamwork. With this book, I am no longer afraid to explore the exciting world of the arts in business. My only regret is that they didn’t write it ten years ago. — Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan, director of research, QB International

For inspiration incorporating improvisation, role playing, and storytelling into your retreats, we recommend Orchestrating Collaboration at Work. For our money there is no better book on how to use art forms effectively in a retreat setting than Orchestrating Collaboration at Work. — Merianne Litemen et al, Retreats that Work: Everything You Need to Know About Planning and Leading Great Offsites

Fan mail from Catalyst Ranch: Hi Everyone, I wanted to send out a quick note and let you know about a book you might want to purchase. It’s a little expensive, but worth every penny. It’s a vast collection of exercises using arts-based learning approaches: “Orchestrating Collaboration at Work – Using Music, Improv, Storytelling and Other Arts to Improve Teamwork” by Arthur B. VanGundy / Linda Naiman.

I think it does a wonderful job of showing how to use arts based approaches across the board and should foster some new ideas amongst you all. It’s a practical guide which includes the purpose of each exercise, the materials needed, the time required along with discussion questions. I used a couple of the exercises at our Manager’s Offsite this past Monday and found them really helpful and easy to execute. —Eva Niewiadomski Ranch Czarina www.catalystranch.com

Change You Can Believe In. This fantastic workbook is a labor of love and full of great solutions to complex business problems using the arts to facilitate collaboration at work. I bought this book to learn how to begin to facilitate corporate workshops using the arts for The Bite-Size Arts Ensemble, an organization I have created devoted to entrepreneurial growth for artists. Not only will it provide a platform to build on, but it will serve as the model for using arts based learning as a change agent in organizational development. Don’t let the price of this book stop you! Buy it. — Lisa Canning, Entrepreneur The Arts (Chicago, IL)

Great insight and fascinating exercises. This book was one of the first and best to explore using arts-based techniques and processes to address organizational issues. The introduction is a superb distillation of some of the reasons why the arts work in the business context and the exercises themselves are generally well thought-out and easy to use – they should be, as they come from some of the leading practitioners in this ever-growing field. The book may be expensive, but it is worth every cent for any trainer or facilitator who wants to take a more creative approach to their work. — Tim Stockil, CI:Creative Intelligence (UK)

This is a great resource. It’s a great collection of exercises that draw upon a wide variety of arts modalities. Each exercise is described in enough detail to be able to easily implement them. — Steven S. Taylor, Assistant Professor, Department of Management – Worcester Polytechnic Institute

High-performance collaborative work teams are the new performance imperative in both private and public enterprises. VanGundy and Naiman show how using the arts to unleash the creative potential of individuals and teams will allow this new performance mandate to be met. This book helps to push the edge of the arts in business envelope. — Robert F. Lusch, dean and distinguished professor, The Neeley School of Business, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas

Our experiences today, obviously demonstrate the need for a holistic, integrated approach to value creation. Only by means of interdisciplinary dialogue and action we will be able to access the existing multitude of creative development opportunities in social, ecological and economic contexts. Orchestrating Collaboration at Work provides hands on examples on how to start and facilitate such a process. — Andreas J. Harbig, partner, head of strategic HR management, Pricewaterhousecoopers, Germany

I think your book is wonderful!! You masterfully designed a terrific array of resource materials. — Susan M. Osborn, PhD, faculty, organizational systems, Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center, Folsom, California

A wealth of enablers in the form of training excercises: I have discovered the power and the simplicity in finding/applying a wide variety of experiential exercises that spark creativity and imagination in groups. The beauty of this valuable workbook is that it unleashes our hidden potentialities. I have successfully used these activities in private business and in non profit organizations and in every occasion the results have been the creation of high energy and relevant discoveries among participants. Thank you Arthur and Linda for your valuable contribution.— Carlos Mota Margain (Mexico City, Mexico)

Will VanGundy Ever Run Out of Creativity? Arthur VanGundy has already given us just about every conceivable aid to creative work–from “Brain Boosters” to “101 Games” and “101 Activities.” Now with Linda Naiman he delivers the most comprehensive and accessible creativity and innovation resource for groups I’ve ever seen. And it’s about time someone got business people to start thinking like artists. Anyone in business creativity, ideation, and new-product development will find the VanGundy-Naiman approach not only inspiring and fun but incredibly effective. This binderful of brilliance would be a bargain at $900.— Peter Lloyd (USA)

Terrific Resource: I’ve purchased MANY books filled with MANY activities over the years. This is one of the best I’ve seen. It has lots of immediately applicable activities that are practically guaranteed to succeed. As well, it triggers lots of additional ideas for additional activities, too. A tremendous resource that every trainer, facilitator and consultant should add to their library. — David Gouthro (Canada)

Table of Contents


1. Introduction and Overview.

Learning Objectives.
Organization of the Book.
Activity Format.

2. Orchestrating Collaboration Using the Arts.

What Do We Mean by “Arts”?
How Do We Know Whether It Is Really Art?
Why Use the Arts in Business?
How Can We Apply the Arts to Business?
Learning to Collaborate.
Examples of the Arts as a Vehicle for Collaboration in Organizations.
Why Use the Arts in Corporate Training?
Debriefing an Arts Experience.
Do Some Art Forms Work Better Than Others in Different Work Groups?
Guidelines for Conducting an Arts Experience.

3. Getting Acquainted and Icebreakers.

Getting Acquainted.
More Than 1,000 Words.
Personality Typing.
Sing, Sing a Song.

Belly Dancing.
Building Community.
Check In.
Inspiration Rituals.

4. Arts Warm-Up Activities.

Abstraction and Composition.
Art Gallery.
Arts Expedition.
Express Yourself.
If Your Face Were a Poem.
Restrictions and Limitations.
Strike Up the Band.
Thinking Symbolically.

5. Collage/Mixed Media.

Candid Collages.
The Figure/Ground of Conflict.
Golden Moment.
Just Suppose Juxtapose.
Mapping Your Future.
People Wall.
Searching for Genius in All the Unexpected Places.
Shift Happens.

6. Drawing.

Commentated Pictures.
Drawing You into Conversation.
Metaphorical Thinking.
Picture Switcher.
Symbolic Code.
Vision Quest.

7. Music.

Group Groove.
Jazzin’ It.

8. Painting.

Getting Graphic.
Spheres of Influence.
Visual Symphonies.

9. Poetry.

Limerick Your Learning.
Poetry in Motion.
Rhyme and Reason.
Rhyme Time.

10. Storytelling.

Exchanging Perspectives.
Fictionalization and Imaginative “Restoryation”.
It’s History.
Once Upon a Team.
Stories of Change.
Story Lines.
Story Weaving.
Time Capsule.
To Go Where No Group Has Gone Before.

11. Theater Improvisation.

The Advocates.
The Answer Is Always Yes.
Ball Toss Chaos.
Free Association Word Ball.
Obstacles and Opportunities.
Team Moving.
Two Minutes of Fame.
The World’s Worst Leader.

12. Miscellaneous Activities.

The Blue Ribbon Panel.
Collaboration Imagination.
Here’s Looking at You.
The Innovative Product Award.
Mythical Animals.
Teams in Motion.

13. Evaluation Activities.

Artistic Insights.
Song Lyrics.
Symbolic Solutions.
Contributor Contact Information.
About the Editors.

Orchestrating Collaboration at Work was first published by Wiley in 2003, and re-published by Booksurge in 2007