We live in an increasingly complex and challenging environment. The amount of data we have to sift and sort is enormous. The demands upon our time grow relentlessly.
Clients lament that they have no time to think, reflect or pause during the course of their working day. They are too busy reacting to the latest political change of mind or commercial priority.
It is not new and I fear that we’ve become numb, accepting that there is no other way.
How can we possibly come up with the best decisions or solutions to intractable problems or find ways to engage challenging stakeholders when there is no room for reflection, connection or abstraction?
How can we discover new things when we are so bound by the way we’ve always done things and restricted to the analytical, rational and narrow thinking taught in schools and reinforced in workplaces?
I’ve been increasingly drawn to the work of my colleague, Dr Natalie McDonagh whose PhD and consulting practice is grounded in her research into the use of art-based practices to inform thinking.
The unconscious bias program we developed is informed by her work. It uses both left and right brain practices to create an emergent learning space that blends the intellectual, rational and theoretical with artistic, experiential, somatic and reflective opportunities to provide people with a way to access the language of their right brain and deepen their insights and conscious awareness.
Using Natalie’s materials (boxes of small toys, miniature artworks, objects, shells, and a myriad of brick-a-brack of the type typically found on the floor of small children or the shelves of Jungian Psychoanalysts), people play with toys, create collages, inhale smells, use metaphor and imagery to reveal more than can be adequately communicated through language and rational frameworks.
We create opportunities for people to move beyond the cognitive, left-brain frameworks and thought processes that automatically inform decisions to see what is not readily visible and ‘known’ and discover connections, linkages, pathways and alternatives that lay dormant until accessed.
Providing human beings with an opportunity to access emotions, imagination, metaphor and knowledge beyond language provides them with the ability to make sense of ambiguity, pull threads that reveal pathways forward and connect to themselves, each other and our common humanity. We see people and groups soften, laugh, relax and connect with each other differently. They recognise the limitations of their thinking and feel safe to question their assumptions.
The level of unconscious bias that informs our opinions, decisions and judgements is, in my opinion, directly related to the emphasis and weight we give to left-brain, analytical thinking.
We all have access to art, poetry, the smells and expanse of nature. We are all capable of connecting more deeply to ourselves, our environment and each other – it’s time we all stopped, played and noticed.