These books will help you see things in new ways:

what poetry brings to business

As the title suggests, this book explores the relationship between poetry and business thinking. Clare Morgan, the lead author, and director of the graduate creative writing programme at the University of Oxford, is masterful at bringing poems to life. This is not a dry intellectual theoretical tome. The connection between poetry and business begins dramatically with a discussion about William Stafford’s, “Traveling in the Dark,” a poem about roadkill. What first seems like a simple straight forward scenario — a pregnant dear lies dying on the side of the road — becomes, under Morgan’s coaching, increasingly complex, and emotionally fraught. Morgan takes us inside actual poetry workshops, to examine poetry, and ‘listen’ in on discussions amongst business managers from various industries, as they grapple with the complexities poetry. What would we do if we were in the same situation as the narrator in Stafford’s poem? What are the moral considerations? The poem becomes a catalyst for deeper levels of conversation that foster interpersonal understanding in work groups.

What does poetry bring to business?

“Creativity is a means of controlling chaos, finding order. Business and poetry draw their waters out of the same well.”?—John Barr, President, Poetry Foundation In an article about poetry in the boardroom, Morgan states:

A poem is a distillation of thought, experience, emotion into a tightly controlled form which utilizes words, images, sound and rhythm patterns to create a complex set of meanings that constantly form and re-form themselves. Its components take it beyond argument into a realm where expectations of single, analysable meaning are deliberately questioned and subverted. All art does this, but poems do it in a particularly condensed and therefore intensive way. A poem is a puzzle with multiple, inexhaustible, co-existent – and interchangeable – ‘solutions’, each more or less dependent on the others for validity. This means that the desire for closure, which drives most business considerations, the desire for pursuing the shortest route between A and B, another dominant mode in business thinking – won’t get you anywhere at all when you’re faced with a poem. (Journal of Business Strategy Volume: 26 Issue: 1, 2005)

Clare Morgan and her coauthors, expand on these notions in What Poetry Bring to Business. The skills necessary to talk and think about poetry, to think beyond fact, through metaphor and imagination, can be of significant benefit to leaders and managers who are contending with complexity in a changing world of finite resources.

What Poetry Brings to Business presents ways in which reading and thinking about poetry offer businesspeople new strategies for reflection on their companies, their daily tasks, and their work environments. The goal is both to increase and broaden readers’ understanding of poems and how they convey meaning, and also to help readers develop analytical and cognitive skills that will be beneficial in a business context. The unique combinations and connections made in this book will open new avenues of thinking about poetry and business alike.

I am fascinated by the discussions about poetry in this book because I have experienced parallels and applications in the visual art forms I use as a facilitator and coach. The arts invite us into deeper and more meaningful conversations that are crucial to leadership and strategy. What Poetry Bring to Business is not only a comprehensive treatise on metadisciplinary  learning through poetry, it also makes a significant contribution to the field of arts-based learning in business and society.

I recently bought this book based on testimonials from people I know, and the promise of the title: If you want to change the world, tell a better story.

Larsen’s approach reminds me of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way — a workbook that helped me find my calling. Larsen offers a practical framework for transformational speaking, based in part on Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, and she asks excellent coaching questions aimed at liberating your true self to help you find your core message. I read some of the questions to friends, at dinner one night, which caused us to engage in a  conversation which was both reflective and illuminating. I plan to take time out for contemplation and reflection this summer, to go through the exercises, and learn to tell a better story.

See also:

3 Books on Creativity to Challenge your Perceptions

Don’t Skip This Crucial Stage of Creativity