Revolutionise the boardroom

Published by Tessa Marchington on

Tomorrow I’m speaking at a panel discussion about how we can use music and the arts to ‘Revolutionise the Boardroom’. We will be exploring the role creative arts can have on improving corporate culture and driving innovation.

So why do we want to use the arts and creativity to revolutionise the boardroom?

Workplaces are more diverse than they ever have been. We are in a time of diversity and businesses are seeking change and innovation BUT most people still choose the familiar and the safe options all around us. It is human nature – we all have unconscious bias, and in the business environment risk taking is not a notion that is entertained. You’re not allowed to fail.. Not even to embrace the possibility, as every artist knows, that out of failure can comes success. The irony in the discourse of some of these companies, who encourage innovation but don’t allow the notion of failure, is palpable. These big corporates, whether they be banks, law firms or retail companies will never succeed to move forward and will always be behind the creative industries unless they recognise the value in becoming creatives themselves and embracing a new process to do so. In order to innovate businesses need to embrace diversity, but not in the traditional sense. I’m not talking about diversity in terms of the ethnic mix of employees, or the number of employees with a disability but rather diversity in terms of the way a business thinks and approaches problems or challenges.

Diversity is not a new idea. In ‘The Origin of Species’ Darwin spoke about the need for diversity in the ecosystem. He makes reference to the increased productivity in the field with distantly related grass as opposed to the field with a single species of grass. “Diversity is a key ingredient of productivity.”*

In the 1960s and 70s a group emerged out of eminent practising artists founded by Barbara Steveni and John Latham called the Artists Placement Group. A pioneering artists’ organisation designed to challenge and question organisational practice. With very strong ideas and objectives, Barbara and the APG created the idea of discussing “The incidental person’ – a borderless person who is free to challenge, to fail, to encourage exploration, to portray the truth and offer a creative lens through which to see things. I believe every Board and company needs this person as a way of seeing new ideas.

Artists have the unique ability to challenge the status quo, develop new, original ideas, and go far beyond the conventional thinking. Bringing the arts into the companies at the highest level would enable businesses to use the artists, (be them musicians, poets, conceptual artists…) as a vehicle to move the company forward, to ensure that it’s at the forefront of new ideas and change.

The bottom line

This is all makes sense in theory but businesses will never really adopt an approach unless it makes economic sense, So, where is the value? How will this affect the bottom line of the business? A recent Gallup (2014) survey of 42,000 randomly selected employees revealed some staggering statistics about the state of the UK workforce:

33% of employees are engaged;
49% of employees are disengaged; and
18% are actively disengaged;
Engaged employees take 2.69 sick days a year on average;
Disengaged employees take 6.19 sick days a year on average;
33% annual operating income decline for companies with low levels of engagement;

So, the value in being able to engage and motivate employees is huge. We know that if your company is at the cutting edge of your industry you will attract the best talent.

But, if, in addition, you can offer opportunities to your people time to express themselves and create time for new hobbies then music can add a string to the bow of any company looking to differentiate itself from its competitors.

I had offers from a number of different firms but the opportunity of being able to have violin lessons during my working week made me choose Norton Rose Fulbright.

John Agbaimoni

We are often given testimonials by our members:

If it hadn’t been for my piano lessons I would have been looking for a new job by now.”

Employee, Macquarie.

It can also have a transferable effect to the workplace with skills you learn. “My teacher is endlessly positive and patient.. I have taken that learning and found myself using it when I give feedback to the associates I manage and mentor. I have learned more about how to give constructive feedback through my lessons than I have through all the training I have been given as part of my job.” Partner, Linklaters.

Being part of an office choir gives a sense of belonging and identity to individuals and can have a really transformative effect on their working life. “Before I joined the choir I was just the man in the post room that people passed things to. Now I’m Tom – the key bass in the choir, I have friends at work and people say hello to me when they pass me their parcels.” Tom, Christie’s.

Bringing the arts into the companies at the highest level, (be that musicians, poets, conceptual artists…) can help to move the company forward and provide a vehicle for innovation, ensuring the company is in at the forefront of ideas and change.

The paradox of course, is that there won’t be a ‘revolution’ as we want it, because those with the authority to appoint new board members will only act on what is familiar to them and most likely won’t want to take the risk. It will take a visionary to really take that leap into the unknown and blaze a trail for other corporates to follow, changing the landscape of the relationship between business and the arts.

A new era for the arts

Repositioning the role of artists in society as powerful, innovative ‘tools’ to bring about culture change, innovation and increase the productivity and the bottom line of business is an exciting prospect. Is the Boardroom Revolution going to be the start of a new era? Can we create an Arts Revolution as Tech City created theirs?

Join our campaign and champion the Revolution.  “A Revolution whose time has come.” Jon Snow, Channel 4


Take a look at our campaign film here

*Inclusive Talent Management: How business can thrive in an age of diversity, Stephen Frost & Danny Kalman

Categories: Blog