This post is the third in a series of five articles describing a major arts-based leadership development programme at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, designed and run over a four-year period by Dr. Mark Powell, one of the authors of this article. In the program, which was conducted on behalf of a major oil and gas exploration company, senior project managers worked closely with a wide variety of artists: jazz musicians, actors, painters, storytellers, dancers, conductors and others. The aim was to create a new culture of ‘open mindedness’ in the project managers, encouraging them to interact effectively with the other stakeholders involved in major projects, and enhancing their ability to ‘improvise’ – to react quickly and effectively to changing circumstances.
Speed and urgency, although necessary attributes of leadership, are not sufficient to successfully lead a team. In fact, our research suggests that leaders who can tether an obsession with deadlines and time to an ability to sense the work and energy flow of their colleagues will have the most success.
In an earlier post, we gave a very brief account of a major arts-based leadership development programme at Oxford University’s School of Business, designed to create new behaviors in a group of senior project managers in the oil and gas exploration industry. The aim was to create a new culture of ‘open-mindedness’: the ability to form more effective working relationships with the other stakeholders involved in major capital projects and an increased ability to ‘improvise’ – to react quickly and effectively to rapidly changing situations.
In 2011, a major oil and gas exploration company based in the UK set out on an extraordinary, arts-based leadership development programme at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, designed and led by Dr. Mark Powell, one of the authors of this article. The company’s senior project managers are responsible for multi-million-dollar exploration projects around the world and the programme was designed, not to give these senior managers enhanced skillsets or new theoretical frameworks, but to change their behaviors and mindsets — to change their culture. More specifically, the aim was to create a new culture, the key element of which could be described as ‘open-mindedness’, in two distinct forms:
Should your company be striving for the type of advantage that has become the hallmarks of Amazon, Google and Facebook? In the tech world, it’s hard to imagine success without quick and continuous technological improvement. But, in the frantic race for product or service superiority, another advantage is often overlooked – company culture.
It doesn’t matter whether you sell information or cremation, the right kind of organizational culture can bolster and sustain a company’s performance.