Bards in the Boardroom?

Back in August 2006 I speculated if we’d ever see bards in business class to entertain airline passengers with poetry and epic stories on long-haul flights.

I was pleased to read in Tuesday’s FT that Yorkshire-born poet David Whyte is helping stir imagination in the workplace. He has made it his mission, through corporate speaking tours and seminars, to help businesses harness the insights and metaphors that poetry can offer to broaden their language, improve interaction within the workplace and stir imaginations.

He’s worked with blue chip companies like AT&T, Microsoft, NASA, Boeing and Kaiser. Thus his muse has helped people reach out and touch someone; know where they want to go today; reach for the stars, line their dreams and thrive.

Of interest to corporate communications staff and speechwriters, Whyte stands for precision in language “listening and talking to a group until he is able to articulate an uncomfortable and unspoken truth.”

As I noted in my article on The Medieval Speechwriter, aspects of modern corporate life recall life at Court. Whyte agrees:

“All these organizations are like Shakespearean plays writ large, with the nobles telling their truths from the podium while the gravediggers are telling it like it really is in the bathroom. And every epoch ends with a lot of blood on the floor”.

He sees real value in poetry as a tool to help managers make sense of their work. It enables novice managers, overwhelmed, desperate, hungry for some ground in a world gone mad, to analyze things:

“The idea is to get deeply into experiences where they have different images and metaphors to use out of the poetry. A lot of the images will have to do with being lost, with not having the usual bearings, and therefore looking at the world in a different way.”

Whyte has a new book, The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship. In it, he explores three commitments we have in life: to our partner; our work; our self. He calls for perspective to keep grounded in oneself.

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