Artfulness and the playground, two words you do not normally associate with the serious world of organisational life. I am going to offer two invitations, but before I do let me explain.
Firstly, artfulness. Here art is both an artefact, for example the painting, piece of music or even the benefits of a well-managed project, and the processes we use, for example how we paint a picture, run a challenging workshop or even show up at a meeting. ‘Being artful’ congers thoughts of skill, craft and even cunning, just think of the Artful Dodger in Dickens’ Oliver Twist. And then there is the social dimension: for art to have value, that value has to be recognised by others and conditions need to be in place to nurture and support artful practice. So art has a number of fascinating qualities to it.
Secondly, playground. The playground is the place of creativity, games and laughter. It is where we can make our own worlds with actors, plots and stories. It is the opposite of sitting in rows with forced concentration listening to the teacher. But then there is the shadow side, the place of bullies, power and coercion. The playground is not a neutral place, there are hierarchies and places where the ‘cool’ people are, but others are excluded. And none of this is written down, it needs to be learnt by sensing what is around us, making mistakes and involving others.
If we dwell on these two words we have the opportunity to imagine organisational life differently. We can come up with different answers to questions such as:
- How do we support others to grow and develop?
- What is of value and why?
- Why do people act like they do?
- What would happen if we did something different?
Now for the invitations. James Traeger and I are associate editors of the Action Research journal and we are editing a special edition on artfulness in the organisational playground, here is the call for papers that gives all the details of what we are looking for and why. If you are tempted to write an article it would be great to hear from you. We have another invitation as well. Every month for an hour we hold an online gathering to explore our artful practice in organisational life, if you would like to be part of this #ArtfulKnowing group please write an e-mail to Pip Rowson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Picture Credit: On and On, 1951 (serigraph), Gershgoren, Milton (1909-89) / Dallas Museum of Art, Texas, USA / Tom Gooch Memorial Prize (Dallas Print Society, Dallas Art Association and Leon A. Harris, Jr.), 1st Annual Dallas National Print Exhibition, 1953 / Bridgeman Images.