Note: This post first featured on “The Art of…” blog, under my name: David Atkinson http://davidsartof.blogspot.com/
In this second post relating to my attendance at the 23rd Colloquium of the European Group for Organisational Studies: Beyond Waltz – Dances of Individuals and Organisation, I want to look at the notion that organisations might be brought to dance to their own melody.
I have written, in a work-in-progress essay, that the synergy and rhythm that might be identifiable in the social negotiation of an organisation’s common purpose can be metaphorically likened to an organisational performance of dance. Here I use the concept of “dance” as it generally refers to patterns of human or animal movement occurring in a form of expression, social interaction, or some other form or method of non-verbal communication.
The associated concept of “rhythm” within a dance can be interpreted as the variation in length and accentuation of a series of sounds or other events. Here rhythm involves patterns of duration that are phenomenologically present in such events and, seen in this light, both the concepts of rhythm and dance are inextricably linked. I might therefore surmise that forms of “dance” may be seen as being dependent on social, cultural, aesthetic, artistic and moral constraints. They range from functional movement (such as Folk dance) to virtuoso techniques (such as ballet).
Within the colloquium, a number of people sought to draw correlations between organisation and various forms of dancing; they sought to provide insight into how organisations might be read through these forms. Thus, taking one case in point, I was party to a basic lesson in the Argentinean Tango: a dance of passion! Here I was encouraged to think about how entrepreneurial managers are required to lead their organizations through exploring the passion implicit in that dance. Other dance forms were discussed. However, perhaps the most enlightening experience for me was a session with Aurelia Staub, the Artistic Director of the Konnex Dance Theatre.
With Aurelia, our colloquium sub-group of some 20 people were not so much introduced to additional and specific dance forms, but more to the basic concepts of movement in space and time within a group environment. In a simple exercise, we were all led to the “dance floor” – a lecture room where tables and chairs had been cleared away. With only the simplest basic movements (forwards, left, right and backwards) and constrained by the boundaries of the room and the proviso that no collisions were allowed between people, we proceeded to move – in our own choice of direction – around the room. Observable from this exercise was the distinct possibility that people, given a degree of freedom, yet operating within certain basic protocols, could generate new and meaningful patterns of movement in which co-operation was implicit and the patterns themselves indicated a form of natural rhythm.
Can organisations be made to dance? Yes! My own belief is that the question for organisational research is not what dances are being practiced but, in order to better support managers in practice, how can we encourage the emergence of an organisation’s natural “dance” movement, and how might this dance then be choreographed within a shared common purpose.