The head, heart and guts; triggering change

by Amanda Harding


Facilitating an international gathering of scientists a few years ago the conference organizer came to me 48 hours before the opening running between visa, internet, catering, bussing, …  and thrust a visiting card from the King of Laughter into my hand calling out, "you'll love him, just want we need". Bewildered, I was convinced that two months living in the Ghion Hotel in Addis Ababa - a relic from Ethiopia's Soviet Union influenced past and still in the firm hands of the State -  had finally pushed him off the rails. Three days later and we opened the morning session with the man himself! Three hundred internationally reputed scientists smiling, giggling, squirming in their seats and then collectively bent over double in rich, healthy, spontaneous laughter, was a true gift.

When an artist or actor says to you, "feel it in your guts" or "let your heart speak" you want to believe him or her. Their legitimacy as creators, derived from the titles they hold and the self-belief they carry with them opens the ways for us, the thinkers, do-ers and rationals, to let go and recognize our multi-faceted dimensions. But take this artist out of their creative sphere - the studio, stage or gallery, the coffee shop or wild outdoor space - and place them in a boardroom, corporate strategic management meeting or UN style conference and all hell seems to break loose. Maybe not visibly but certainly under the surface the volcano is heating up. These catalysts or triggers of change are the least expected. Sometimes brought in to team-build, break the ice and entertain as a welcome diversion from the work in hand the real value this creative, intuitive and off-centre energy brings is its ability to enable innovation. Connecting our head to our hearts, our guts to our head, the risks we find overwhelming and misguided become opportunities and pathways to collective and individual success.

Clowns in refugee camps, football matches in shanty towns, theatre-for-development reconciling the un-reconcilable, creative visioning demonstrating common ground, meditation, musical reflection and collective graphic expression … these are more than techniques and tools but active and inclusive, necessary and ground-breaking initiatives that move us both individually and collectively from where we stand today closer to where we would like to stand tomorrow. 

Opening our eyes to this possibility and creating the space for such invention remains frustratingly challenging. The creative is regarded as an extra, something we'd like to do but don't have the time for. A fun bonus but not central to the work at hand. Where some years ago four or five days were put aside today senior managers and their executives may carve out half a day, a full one at the outside, to work through a tight agenda where extras are soon brushed aside. And with that the very innovation their "vision-mision-values" statement claims to be at the heart of the organization.

Once the space is opened for the head, heart and guts to connect and converse change becomes imminently more possible.