Employing imagination: a positive way to respond to the economic slowdown

Open Hand couple promotes right-brain use in the workplace

P. Indica Jehman, For the Gulf Islands Driftwood Weekender

Published: Friday, March 13, 2009

How do we greet the unexpected with a creative and collaborative response that brings out new solutions and benefits?

Organizations are often confident in the tried and true methods that have been successful for so many years. But the economic realities we face today require us to develop unprecedented responses to new situations. To find new solutions–new thinking is required. Instinctive right brain thinking rather than linear solutions in order to discover how workplaces can transform challenges into strengths. Then we can then see situations from another perspective and generate original ideas that we had never thought of.

“Creativity is the cost-effective way of bringing on change because companies can get the most out of their staff,” says Alan Caplan, co-founder of Open Hand (Open Hand) Team-building, Coaching & Retreats. “By stretching imagination, you are going to get unlimited resources from people because it is an untapped resource. With the global situation we are in now, it is going to be necessary in every way.”

Some creative right brain functioning includes: inventiveness; always seeing the bigger picture; imagination rules; use of symbols and images; believing; appreciating; and presenting possibilities.

Caplan and his wife Sharon Bronstein—the other co-founder of Open Hand–have over 40 years of  collaborative experience as creative arts therapists. They guide participants to apply imaginative skills to discover new solutions to everyday work challenges by employing interactive team-building, theatrical problem-solving, and promoting micro skills in communication.

Based on Salt Spring Island, BC, Caplan MA and Bronstein MSW come from a unique background as coaches, counsellors, facilitators, teachers and performance artists. They are also co-founders of Salt Spring Playback Theatre, in which they trained theatre troupes for 12 years across North America. Bronstein has studied with world-renowned imagery teacher, Colette Aboulker-Muskat in Jerusalem, where she received extensive training.

There is growing literature in the last half decade on the use of creativity to produce innovative responses.

Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, uses the two sides of the brain as a metaphor for understanding the contours of our times.

In the New York Times and Business Week best seller, (which has been translated into 18 languages), he offers a fresh look at why right-brainers will rule the future.

Bronstein says Open Hand chooses non-threatening exercises in their sessions.

“We have a number of creativity games, and spontaneity exercises that take people’s realities at work and create composite stories of work, and it is a mirroring of what is really going on, yet nobody had to be exposed.”

According to Open Hand, some signs to look for in the work place which indicate a need for support include: an apathy or lack of morale; gossip; back-biting; undermining; power struggles; burn out; staff that is afraid; tension under the surface; passive resistance; and a creation of distance due to intimidation.

“It is very safe,” Caplan adds. “People think of theatre as intimidating but [for the theatrical problem-solving] what we’re actually asking is that people just sit in an audience and watch. It cuts through the protection because a person will see shades of themselves in that experience, yet it is safe and they can see some of the choices they’ve made. We ask them what options do we have? What are people looking for when they act this way? Where does it originate and how can they change? Most often organizations will take a shift towards a more collective, collaborative approach.”

Some of the skills people identify with after working with Caplan and Bronstein are: “moving forward with unfolding an idea; giving up over-control; being aware of the whole picture; breaking conventional logic; making others look good; accepting the offers of others; not blocking; and deep listening of one’s self and those around them.”

“We’re creating an atmosphere where people feel appreciated, acknowledged, validated, and cared for as a whole,” Bronstein says. “One has to be a clear communicator and be able to see other people. That’s the area we help with.”

Pat Kane (who wrote The Play Ethic) says on his Web site that, “calling oneself a ‘player’, rather than a ‘worker’, is to immediately widen your conception of who you are and what you might be capable of doing. It is to dedicate yourself to realizing your full human potential. To be active, not passive.” He believes that using a play ethic “turns us into more militant producers.”

“The power of theatre presents concepts which can otherwise be abstract and flow over people’s heads,” Bronstein adds. “The deep listening, trust and group awareness of these experiences illustrates what it can be like when individuals pull together for the best outcome. Everyone feels good about themselves when they respond to the unexpected with their most focused team effort. In this way, we get to experience how each person’s creative impulse is the key to better morale and improved team output.”

For more info on Open Hand, go to http://www.ohteambuilding.com.