Magazine article Management Today

REALITY BITES: Rather Than Attend an In-House Workshop on 'How Picasso's Painting Can Inspire Us', Executives Should Go and Look at a Picasso for Themselves

Magazine article Management Today

REALITY BITES: Rather Than Attend an In-House Workshop on 'How Picasso's Painting Can Inspire Us', Executives Should Go and Look at a Picasso for Themselves

Article excerpt

Delegates at the brilliant London Business Forum began their day with a rare treat: sitting among the members of the Sarajevo Philharmonic Orchestra as they played one of the 19th century's most sublime pieces of music, the Brahms Violin Concerto in D.

And then the soloist, Miha Pogacnik, ruined it. Not through his playing, which was wonderful. But every few minutes, just as the music was beginning to weave its spell, he would yell at the orchestra to stop, swap his bow for a marker pen and try to show how the cadences of the last section could help business people to reinvent their organisations.

The theoretical basis of his interventions was half-baked business-babble: harmless, but it cut the Brahms to shreds.

And this wasn't an isolated incident. Arts organisations and businesses are flinging themselves at each other like hyenas on heat. The commercial world has lots of money but worries about a lack of 'creativity'; the arts world has no money and bags of creativity. It looks like that most terrifying of cliches: a 'win-win'. Even Tony Blair, the maestro of circle-squaring, says: 'Co-operation between business and the arts can only lead to the development of a stronger, healthier, more vibrant society.'

There are property firms doing crafts, water utilities splashing paint on canvas, Birmingham manufacturers using Brecht. Henry V is routinely dismantled to provide leadership insights. Red Bull has encouraged its employees to get involved in an alternative production of The Tempest (the message being, presumably, that Ariel keeps going for five acts only if Red Bull itself gives him wings).

On the face of it, it is difficult to oppose any mechanism for redistributing money from business to the arts. If the RSC has to do a few workshops on how The Merchant of Venice can help City law firms in return for a large cheque, does it really matter? With firms needing to make a more robust 'business case' for their arts philanthropy, the pressure for a more direct connection between an artistic performance and financial performance has grown.

And it is surely better, the argument runs, to bring some of the creativity of the arts world into business than to strike the old-fashioned deal in which firms write large cheques in exchange for their names on the programme and a couple of boxes on opening night. As Loyd Grossman says on the web site of Arts & Business, which brokers partnerships between commerce and creatives: 'Art belongs in the workplace. …

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