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Working Responsively

I’m sometimes asked to help out with team building activities. When I first think of team building – all kinds of vaguely naff ideas float into my head. Images of groups high fiving each other, doing trust falls, building bridges out of drinking straws – that kind of thing. These thoughts may be a little unfair but they are drawn from years of experience of turning up at team building events and having something done to you.

When I work with groups I like to ask people questions which help establish the mood and tone of our work together, as well as what expectations/needs/requirements folk have, from the project, from themselves, each other, and me. This practice helps me get closer to working coactively (doing things with each other) rather than coercively (doing things to each other).

Last week it was my pleasure to spend time with a firm of accountants who wanted to explore how they could use art to enhance their work. Among other interesting things, they expressed a need for spontaneity and a requirement to create art for their office. Neither of these have surfaced in previous sessions – the responses are often much more ‘work’ related.

Here are a couple of examples of how people responded to their invitations to be spontaneous and to create some art for the office. To meet the need for spontaneity we used a basic printing technique to give us unpredictable results.

Art for the Office 1 Art for the Office 2

Who said accountants are boring?

After the session I spoke with the owner of the firm and he reflected positively that we had overcome that sense of coercion. He also shared that he appreciated me not deferring to him as the leader in the room – but instead encouraging a sense of leadership to ebb and flow to where and to whom it was best suited at the time. What a lovely things to say. Even though I’ve been using art as a lens through which to help people explore work for several years now, I’m still learning and being motivated by the benefits people experience when working like this.

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