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"Quality is not an act,
    it is a habit." -- Aristotle

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Creativity, Imagination, and Play:

Innovative Strategies for Leadership and Organizational Development

Leilani Henry

A growing body of knowledge indicates that imagination, play, creativity and movement are the frontiers for organizational transformation in the 21st century.1 While some leaders remain skeptical, many are discovering the leverage of the imagination in the workplace.  Research shows that we use the highest levels of intelligence when our imaginations are fully engaged.2 Even Einstein said that he valued imagination more than knowledge.

If we are to create organizations that magnify purpose and performance, we need to allow imagination and play to permeate the way we learn, the way we lead, and the way we build organizational systems. What does it take to engage our imaginations? Imagination is the result of integrating sensory information such as movement, touch, hearing, sight and smell. It also comes from the simultaneous use of all parts of our brains.3 Learning and play are closely linked and are fundamental to human expression. 4 As such, play is an essential component of the imagination.

Another link to imagination is the shift from seeing organizations as machines to a model that mirrors life as an organic, interconnected process. When we see organizations as living beings or natural entities - learning, play and creativity are the predominant paradigms.5 Life is creative, it makes itself up along the way, changing the rules in the moment.6 How do we infuse the systems in which we work with such spontaneity and creativity? How do we become fluent in the new technologies of the day, i.e. imagination, play, learning and creativity? One suggestion is to break from static, familiar methods, and seek to produce desired results in unpredictable ways.7

Movement, story, making music, generative conversation and imagery are innovative, highly effective approaches to engage the whole human system, support individual commitment and build self-regulating organizations. In indigenous cultures, movement and play is a natural part of life that supports self-regulating principles. 8 Rolf Jensen writes in the Dream Society that there is strong evidence that the Dream Society is just around the corner from the Information age. In the Dream Society, affluent cultures will emulate the stories, values and modes of operation, similar to indigenous cultures.

Western society has become addicted to materialism and a narrow view of professionalism. This has resulted in our need for artificial control and structure. For example, in many business and education environments, one must disconnect from movement, imagination and play in order to be taken seriously. "Let's stick to the business at hand" is a common phrase, when innovative approaches are introduced in meetings or workshops. Even the applied definitions of "professionalism" has come to mean being taken seriously; no loose ends showing. David Whyte, in the Heart Aroused, reminds us that the new frontier for global organizations is the messy business of creativity. The dictionary definition of the word professional is "having great skill or experience in a particular field or activity." One can be professional and bring their whole person to their profession for immense gains in productivity, creativity, innovation, and bottom-line business results.

Movement, singing, making music, sharing stories and making art are natural ways of life and yet, cause many people to feel shy and uncomfortable in the workplace. At the same time, we intuitively know these things are important. Evidence can be seen in the resurgence of art and dance in our communities. At the Frederick Douglas Academy in Harlem, football players excel in their sport, as well as take ballet and graduate with honors. We hunger for the connection and integration that will enable us to accomplish our dreams, even in the workplace. We need to engage new strategies that connect us to our whole selves and to the innate intelligence of our organizations and communities.

Various organizations are experiencing significant improvement in effectiveness and efficiency as a result of engaging in an integrated approach to change. The following are two examples of how Being and Living Enterprises has worked with organizations. The first is Rockefeller Financial Services Philanthropy Department, which serves three generations of Rockefeller family members as well as a number of other individuals and family clients in their personal giving strategies and directions. The second is Henry Bergeson Kaleidoscopes, an international leader in hand-crafted, hardwood kaleidoscopes.

Each organization transformed their internal and external relationships, reached an improved level of productivity and increased revenues. Heightened participation in learning, problem solving and a more energetic and creative atmosphere are also benefits gained. Staff and organizational changes were handled more quickly, as a team, with better results than ever before. At Rockefeller Financial Services Philanthropy Department, 98% of their actions items to transform the organization were accomplished in 60 days, and one year later, these gains are still a part of the business.

Being and Living Enterprises uses simple movements, metaphors and a multisensory approach to dialogue, which unlocks individual and group capability to learn quickly. These processes create new neuropathways in the brain, making change seem effortless. We develop a common organizational direction, through modalities such as movement, making art and music, imagery and story telling. This direction includes a personal connection to the business goals, which serve to align the hearts and minds of the individual to their collective future.

Another important component of this work is leadership coaching. Again, using movement and metaphor to learn about key leadership issues, these organizations were propelled forward as the leader saw the connection to his or her capability to move through change. Unlike typical coaching, leaders work on multi-levels, e.g. physical, mental and emotional as a whole system. This becomes a metaphor for how they operate within their team and their organization. Tonia Wright, a manufacturing director for a Fortune 500 telecommunications company reports tremendous benefit from Being and Living Enterprise's approach to leadership development. Bill O'Brien, a seasoned corporate executive and Peter Senge's mentor participated in some of these approaches. At a business dialogue at the Fetzer Institute, co-led by Being and Living Enterprises, O'Brien claimed, "no longer will I think about my body's purpose as something just to carry around my brain!" Henry Bergeson, CEO of Henry Bergeson Kaleidoscopes has employed this multi-level coaching approach when under pressure to create, so that he can "gently remove his own blinders and carve out new pathways for change". Since the inception of his business in 1987, Bergeson uses intentional movement for brain integration as leverage for creativity and organizational growth.

No longer can we afford to take safe channels to influence change. We are at a crossroads where monumental shifts in our economy, our connectivity, and the speed of change and technology are occurring. It is enough to make us lose our balance and see double.9 The work today begins with processes that both honor the individual and serve the collective. We find wisdom in multiple intelligence, such as our bodies, our hearts and our imaginations. The more profoundly we tap into these resources, the more we co-create life-sustaining processes and results for ourselves, families, organizations and communities.

Through imagination, play and creativity, we deepen our ability to find solutions that were previously outside of our reach. The answers, for which we are searching, are within ourselves and our organizations. Creative approaches that include movement tap into tacit knowledge, magnify our unique contributions and assist the collective discovery of unprecedented breakthroughs to reoccurring challenges.

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1. The Office of the Future, Lend Lease article in Fast Company Magazine, September 1999
2. Dr. Joseph Chilton Pierce, 1998 Educational Kinesiology Gathering in Toronto, Canada, author of Magical Child and Crack in the Cosmic Egg
3. Dr. Paul Dennison and Gail Dennison, Founders of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation, Ventura California
4. The Living Company, Ariel de Gues
5. The Living Companv, Ariel de Gues
6. Simpler Way, Dr. Margaret Wheatley
7. 'Turning Goals Into Results: The Power of Catalytic Mechanisms", Jim Collins, Harvard Business Review, July-August 1999
8. Four Fold Way, Angeles Arrien
9. BLUR, Stan Davis and Christopher Meyer, Ernst and Young, Center for Business Innovation 1998

Leilani Henry, M. A., Founder and 'Architectonic' of Being and Living Enterprises is a pioneer in bringing innovative strategies to organization transformation. Her experiential processes bring safety, excitement and lightening speed results to the challenges of creativity, leadership, learning and interconnectivity. Linking reflection with action; head with heart; relationship and technology, she has contributed to the forward movement of organizations such as Lucent Technologies, Rockefeller Companies, Time Warner and the University of Colorado. Henry's 20 years of corporate experience and a lifetime of artistic study and performance is integrated into her unique approach to leadership and learning.
 

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