All work and no play? How drama can help you build a better business
The most successful enterprises have always thought outside the box and boosted performance levels through creative thinking.
Over the past two decades, the business world’s appetite for alternative methods of boosting staff morale and productivity has burgeoned.
Besides volleyball courts, ping-pong tables and meditation pods, business mentorship services have rocketed: UK businesses can now access an online gateway to link up with any of the country’s 27,000 mentors.
But while standard business coaching is now almost considered a pre-requisite to success, the merits of drama-based training are less well publicised.
In fact, many providers of this type of business training have been around a long while and it’s time more of the business community tapped into the power of pure drama.
All the world’s a stage…
How many times have you come out of a meeting, interview or pitch cringing at how it went and wishing you’d presented yourself better?
Good communication skills are absolutely vital in every area of business – both individually and collectively – and many corporations are seeing the value in being able to ‘act out’ workplace scenarios in order to see where pitfalls or opportunities lie.
Drama-based training providers in the UK, such as Dramatic Resources, React and Steps, have been blazing a trail in this alternative approach to business coaching and have received widespread accolades.
Unlike mentoring, which is usually directed at improving focus and furthering the business’s core aims, employing acting skills puts you physically and mentally in a situation that forces you to consider what behaviours might lead to the most successful outcomes.
“A great business coach or mentor will help people explore issues and identify strategies or solutions for themselves,” says Mike Cherry, Managing Director at React. “Coaches or participants will understand theoretically what they need to do and should feel ownership of the action points agreed with their coach.
“The ‘add on’ that using drama-based methods gives participants is to be able to see, hear and experience what it might look, sound and feel like and try it out practically.”
Richard Hahlo, Director at Dramatic Resources, advocates taking “the discipline, craft and exploration of the rehearsal room and putting it into business.”
During one of their sessions, an actor/trainer will play out a scenario with the client, stop the action and ask the ‘audience’ for feedback. The scene is then replayed, giving the participant the chance to apply the suggested changes in behaviour.
“It is this iterative process of rehearsal and practice which we believe promotes the opportunity for learning and real change,” says Richard.
Steps Drama also works within corporate settings and focuses on engendering ‘deep learning’ through fresh perspectives: “We use drama-based techniques to explore behavioural and situational challenges in a safe space, where participants feel engaged and empowered to contribute,” says Jennie O’Reilly, marketing and business development director at Steps.
“We don’t teach drama skills for use within business settings – we use drama scenarios as a catalyst for exploration and discussion on a range of issues ranging from diversity and inclusion to customer service.”
The impact of this kind of approach can be profound and participants learn far more from the intensity and realism of the experience than if they sat listening passively to a presentation.
One React client gave this glowing testimonial: “Actors bring such a vivid sense of reality into situations. It just doesn’t happen without the power of real drama and real drama doesn’t happen without professional actors.
“I witnessed the immense value that this can bring. Working with React can surprise, even astonish and encourage people to see themselves and their reactions in ways that enable great leaps in personal effectiveness.”
Jennie from Steps agrees: “Our approach seeks to hold up a mirror to organisational reality in a way that is very challenging to achieve through other training methods. By seeing situations brought to life in this way, delegates have a valuable opportunity to witness the impact of their own, and others’, behaviour.”
And it’s the resonant power of fun that instils real change in clients, according to Richard Hahlo at Dramatic Resources: “We allow people to reconnect to their creative energy in a constructive and highly focused way,” he says.
“If people enjoy themselves there is much more chance they will also learn some new behaviours and be brave enough to want to take those away and put them into action. Feedback indicates that people are empowered to be more conscious and bolder in how they approach their communication challenges.”
It seems the key to employing drama in business is learning how to really connect effectively: “We want our clients to approach their next presentation with a greater ambition to really engage and captivate their audience.”
The scope for this kind of training is enormous, ranging from improving individual presentation skills to the culture of an entire company. And all the training providers we spoke to work both globally and locally.
React are currently working with a nationwide UK retailer. “Utilising elements of immersive theatre, comedy and facilitation skills we are successfully helping deliver a culture change programme to all 71,000 members of staff in over 95 locations in only six months,’ says MD Mike Cherry.
Dramatic Resources’ global clients include leading financial, insurance, manufacturing, advertising and utilities companies and a number of top European business schools. They are also currently working with Cisco’s women leaders in 15 locations worldwide, from ‘Texas to Tokyo’.
Steps also works with “organisations large and small on projects hugely ambitious and some more modest.”
Jennie sums up the extensive power that those in her field are offering: “Our approach has real benefits for any aspect of business life where behaviours create challenges for individuals, teams and businesses. When individuals are working at their optimum, the potential impact on business success is immeasurable.”
By Nicky Tatley, Senior Writer at BusinessesForSale.com, the market-leading directory of business opportunities from Dynamis. Nicky writes for all titles in the Dynamis stable including PropertySales.com and FranchiseSales.com.