On a recent trip to Calgary for a Policy/Governance conference (I know, I lead such an exciting life!), I met an extraordinary woman.
The conference organizers were working on the theme of “The Art and Craft of Good Governance” so they took a big risk and had an artist present the opening keynote. It wasn’t just any artist, but a brightly clad Dominican nun who is, among other things, a ‘styro-artist’ turning Styrofoam cups, plates and doggy-bag containers into a kind of intricate cloisonné-type structures.
Sr. Joeann Daley’s purpose at the conference was to make a connection between the artist’s conceptual experience and the development of a balanced organizational experience based on the model of board governance known as Policy Governance developed by governance gurus, John and Miriam Carver.
This was not an easy task, you might say. Many of the ‘left-brain’ folks in the audience would agree, having found the whole exercise questionable at best.
On the other hand, a great many of us found interesting parallels in ‘Sister Joe’s’ presentation. There’s something about letting your mind make connections between what seem to be irreconcilably different concepts (apples and lamps for example) that is very liberating and leads to some really interesting synapse sparking.
Some of the things I gleaned from that 90-minute keynote were:
· Chaos is part of creativity – you have to learn to control your chaos.
· ‘Orrore lacunae’, an ancient art form predicated on the fear of empty spaces, thus leading to intricate designs and embellishment is prevalent in business relationships. Sometimes less is more. Know how you relate to the empty spaces.
· Take risks. You can always try again. Risks give hope, courage and inspire others to get involved.
· Every mark you make in a drawing changes the relationships of the other marks along with the boundaries or edges. Don’t be afraid of the marks you are making.
· Taking dreams into reality, the job of many organizations, is the same as the artistic process.
· Don’t recycle, but upcycle – give something a new incarnation and function.
· Doodling is good. It frees the mind to really listen at a higher level to what is being said.
· Do the equivalent of what Sister Joe tells her art pupils; break your crayons into pieces. If you are only using the point, you don’t know your tool.
During the three days of the conference, I asked 20 people how they felt about this unique approach to board development and organizational structure. The vast majority -- and we are talking here about chairs of boards, CEOs and governance consultants, not artists – found the experience enlightening and instructive.
I may forget to use some of the workshop material I heard during that the conference, but I think that a good part of Sister Joe’s simple wisdom and vision will influence me, for a long time to come.