How an executive education program uses musical brainstorming to help senior managers innovate and deal with uncertainty in a fast changing business environment

Our client is a leading executive education program jointly run by an American and Scandinavian university. This program is aimed at mid-career managers who are transitioning into senior roles.

For these managers, change management and innovating in turbulent times is a key challenge. This was the focus of a week-long program with around 25 participants from around the globe. Many of the participants were from large infrastructure and machinery companies – entrenched businesses that have not had to deal with disruption until recently. This made the use of our techniques of creative management especially challenging, since these are not traits that are usually associated with these industries. 

We were invited to conduct a session on “Dealing with uncertainty” and use our creative tools to address what this meant for participants with varying backgrounds and challenges.

Through an interactive session on creative thinking, problem recognition, team songwriting and storytelling, the participants addressed four key challenges:

1.    CHANGING BUSINESS ENVIRONMENTS

The business environment has changed enormously in each of the participant’s industries, both internally and externally. These change, precipitated by technological developments have long term implications for the companies, and the executive’s career.

2.    THE FUTURE OF THEIR INDUSTRIES

Once the managers had brainstormed on the nature of these changes, we invited them to indulge in some blue sky thinking on how the future might look.

3.    PARTICIPANT’S ROLE IN THIS CHANGE

As these managers transition to leadership roles, how they can take independent charge and brainstorm creatively through these challenges is critical. Through a series of exercises and songwriting techniques, the participants came up with solutions that they would potentially implement.

4.    BEHAVIOURAL/SKILL CHANGES

At senior levels, flexibility and creativity are valued more and more – we invited participants to introspect about their own skills, and what they would like to build going forward. A short introduction on making creativity a part of their daily levels was also conducted.

This engaging, creative program was highly appreciated by participants as well as faculty members who were observing the session.  Some samples of the written feedback are below:

“I have been engaged in management education for several years, but have yet to come across such a unique methodology for infusing creativity in a structured, accessible manner”.
“This session really made me think differently about my career trajectory for the next 10-20 years”
“I look forward to integrating these mental shortcuts into my everyday work”

Workshop participants were extremely engaged and quickly understood the goal of the exercise, despite its intense creative nature. As is often the case in our programs, none of the participants had any prior musical training – yet they were engaged, enthusiastic and felt like there were tangible takeaways from the program.

Results Overview

All the participants created and performed their original songs about the issues highlighted above. The participants mentioned that they would like to have such programs on an ongoing basis. 

Overview of results

1.    A greater appreciation of change management among participants

2.    A desire to integrate these practices into their daily work

3.    The program’s structured nature being conducive to management education/leadership training as a whole.

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