Performance of change
Dreamfish advanced performative, embodied approaches to organizational change and leadership development. A few reasons for this -- Founding Dreamfishers brought skills in using performative and embodied approaches to human and organization development -- Tiffany von Emmel, Charlie Seashore, Paul Loper, among others. At the same time, Performance Studies in the social sciences has emerged in the last fifteen years as the study of culture and human development as performance. Performative methods mobilize diverse ways of knowing and embrace multicultural forms of knowledge and learning, which have historically been marginalized.
Dreamfish treated the act of organizing as a verb, not a noun, adapting to external conditions at each turn. Dreamfish likewise treated leadership as an ensemble performance, not a heroic effort. While this improvisational capacity may have puzzled those familiar with traditional 20th Century institutional forms, it excited people from relational cultures and seekers of a relational economy.
Everyday, a relational organization was built through repeated behavioral norms in the Dreamfish culture. Our staff meeting started and ended with "check-ins" in which people shared feelings and movement gestures. Our strategic planning processes utilized choreography. Project kick-offs included theater, self-portrait drawings, and making tools from recycled material. We delivered several consulting projects in which clients cultivated values of diversity, justice and sustainability through community art-making.
In 2009 Leadership Summit, the Dreamfish core team co-created a dance as a reflection of our experience of Dreamfish. First, individuals made reflective drawings, team members created movements from the drawings, which the group then pulled into a choreography and danced. The process was developed and facilitated by Paul Loper. View the video on your left.
OD Network: Enacting Diversity and Sustainability
In 2006, the Organization Development Network asked for Dreamfish to further their initiative to strengthen the values of diversity and sustainability within the culture of the Organization Development community. Dreamfish designed and facilitated a comprehensive intervention that took place at the OD Network conference. The project components included:
- A community event for hundreds of people, which enabled attendees to be participants in a large-scale performance about sustainability and diversity. Participants made their own costumes from natural materials, entered through a time machine into a theatrical environment, designed by Dreamfish to promote connection and creativity. The group first watched a live performance about organization development to promote sustainability (Performed by Dietmar Brinkman, Paul Loper, Denzil Meyer, Ava Square-Levias, Rita Venturini, Tiffany von Emmel. Then, a song composed with OD themes with the tune of a popular song, was sung by the elder OD Network members. Then, Dreamfish's expressive arts facilitators invited the remaining participants to join in and connect with each other through dance (so much so, that the group broke the dance floor).
- An art gallery at the conference's opening night which promoted the themes of diversity and sustainability, and featured artists of color.
- An interactive art object: Empty cans of OD Soup, listing the values of OD Network as ingredients, and inviting people to fill empty space in the can with one's own ideas.
- Arts-based facilitators embedded in the fabric the conference crowd to initiate conversations about diversity and sustainability.
Bay Area OD Network: What do you walk for?
In this project, participants first reflected on paper and shared their own social mission. As a group, we then practiced mindfulness of interdependence through physical movement, and then the group created a meditative group walk, culminating in a spiral. (Photos on the left)
A primary feature of a performative approach is physicality. Traditional institutional forms of learning separate the body from the mind. In Dreamfish, we engaged the embodied mind at every turn of learning and development.
OBifive, the French HR consulting firm, visited Dreamfish during a learning journey to study innovation in the San Francisco Bay Area. Peter Kaminski, Paul Loper and Tiffany von Emmel led an experiential workshop, in which the consultants learned collaboration patterns that were common to wikis (social software), and improvisation.
In the video on the left, participants are practicing collaboration, a global leadership competency, through movement. It looks like fun, and they did have fun. But, most importantly, this experience enabled rapid learning of collaboration concepts.