Tuesday, December 20th, 2022
For the past couple of years I’ve been working on an extended piece of writing on how the concepts and practices of various performance arts traditions and philosophies inform my journey as a group process consultant in supporting a wide array of organizations and communities in transformational change.
Below, I share an edited excerpt that explores the concept of Organizational Performance Art, the art of holding space for communal thriving and liberation.
The core force that propels my organizational consulting is a deep yearning for communal thriving and liberation. I have taken to calling this work Organizational Performance Art. The work does not just change organizations; it is a way of holding space for joy and possibility in the service of social justice and equity.
I characterize an artistic sensibility as the embodiment of a high tolerance for ambiguity and emergence; understanding and playing with the social construction of reality; and working from a place of joy, expansiveness, and possibility. Most artists, narrowly defined, already know how to address the uncertainties in their lives with creativity. They’re resilient and critical and fierce. This is a stance I strive to embody in my personal and professional practices. It’s needed even more now, as we deal with massive social, political, and environmental trauma at the personal, institutional, and systemic levels. An artistic stance towards organizational change invites creativity, positivity, interconnectedness, and collaboration.
Organizational Performance Art is a holding space art. This involves an emptying out of oneself to be emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, and mentally present for and attuned with others. While I am aware, when I am holding space, of how my body feels, what my thoughts are, and what emotions I am experiencing, I am focused on using my presence as invitation for people to first feel and then share their own presence. It is part modeling, part emptying out, part invitation.
Organizational Performance Art holds space for joy and possibility. It holds space for sitting with uncertainty, playing with new ideas and practices, and co-creating. Helping people to develop greater tolerance for sitting in the discomfort of not knowing what is next is one of its central practices. Riding a wild, unknown wave and not being subsumed by it invites people to engage all of their senses, be receptive to what is going on for them internally, and stay open to exchange with the rest of the world. It softens the bounds between people and is a precondition for cocreation.
Organizational Performance Art is holding space. Holding space is witnessing. Witnessing is performing. Performing is playing. Playing is dancing with joy and possibility. Dancing with joy and possibility is delighting. Delighting is co-creating the conditions for thriving and liberation. And co-creating the conditions for thriving and liberation is what it’s all about.