Can a Creativity Lab using Art help us understand the future of communication?
Late last year I had the honour of doing a Creativity Lab at Big & Growing, the first-ever New Work festival in Germany. The Creativity Lab called ‘Art for New Perspectives’ was part of the New Communication stream held at the XING Headquarters in Munich on the 20th November. The whole festival ran over 8 days at different venues around the city. There were more than 50 speakers and workshops. More than twenty people attended our Creativity Lab event. Most were people who currently live and work in Munich. Together we reflected on the future of communication in the workplace. The outcomes were enlightening!
Creativity Lab using Art for New Work
Under the title ‘Art for New Perspectives’ at Big & Growing Festival the Creativity Lab took a deep dive into the future of communication for New Work. This Creativity Lab was abbreviated to a one-hour format that meant we worked quickly. It went fast. A lot was achieved.
To build teams in the room we began with a group art game. Yes, everyone creating surprising portraits of each other. This exercise set the scene for later discussions and working together. From the discussions, we discovered a lot about how people want communication to be in the future and different compared to now.
Deep Listening. Deep Talking.
Currently, many people feel like they have no voice in their workplace and that communication styles are outdated. The quality of current communication is seen as lightweight because it only touches the surface. People desire more honesty in communication, as well as the freedom to communicate across the hierarchies and a deeper purpose to discussions.
The wish for more humane and inclusive communication stands at the centre of hopes for changed communication in a New Work context. This means individual perspectives will be seen as valuable and meaningful in the workplace. Thereby, replacing a more top-down approach. There is a desire for direct communication that is precise and which offers space for further inquiry, a positive quick-wittedness and learning.
Precise communication is seen as a way for people to better understand the effect of their communication on others. People want clear and understandable communication rather than wishy-washy, emotionally driven or inflexible technocratic communication.
Stronger consideration and understanding of non-verbal communication in the workplace is seen as a way to bind people and teams together in a more positive way. Being able to communicate at a non-verbal level, as well as on a verbal and written level will be more inclusive for different personalities and cultures in teams. This human-centred communication will be open and more holistic because it values all sides of communication in the workplace and treasures people’s soft-skills as much as hard their skills.
Limitations of ‘Old Work’
Currently, a limitation to meaningful communication in ‘Old Work’ in Germany is that the private sphere is routinely not welcome in the business workplace. This means a lot of people are unable to acknowledge their private interests and selves at work.
This is counter to the idea put forward in the catchphrase ‘Designing your Life’ which is popular with the New Work generation. New Work calls for change in the way we understand the individual at work, not just as a cog in the machine but someone who brings their whole life experience to the job and can grow both personally and professionally at work.
A greatest general limitation to new communication is that workplaces are hampered by a fear of change. This leads to small-mindedness in business, that in turn, brings the possibility of transformation to a standstill. Micromanagement is a way to kill communication in teams. Companies need to be brave to change to the way they communicate with their employees in a New Work context. It requires training, practising and valuing soft-skills.
Openness and soft-skills are keys to the future of communication
The Lab results suggest future communication for New Work-places will be more humane and promote understanding of the individual. People will communicate more clearly, be more open and flexible, and there will be plenty of room for deep listening, talking and meaningful conversation.
It is often said that to change something, we first must understand what we want to change and why. The desire for change can set the impulse for change in action. If this is true, then the results of our Creativity Lab using Art indicates a communication revolution is coming to German workplaces.
Art can help New Work
In this workshop, the Creativity Lab using Art helped the group understand what the key issues are for them regarding New Work. They want things to change to be more humane and less hierarchical, they want room for personal development and engagement at work. In this case, art helped the group deep dive the questions.
Written by Penelope Richardson