Richard Batchelor

Change Management & Strategic Human Resources

October 7 2011

Art, Culture & Change

A week ago I did the all night cultural extravaganza that is Nuit Blanche. For those who don’t know, it’s a sunset to sunrise event, covering most of central Toronto with an array of temporary cultural and artistic installations. They are only there for the night and range from small independents to large scale commissions. It got me thinking how little we use the artistic and cultural side of our brain when delivering change.

When we talk about change management we always feel the need to define specifics, quantify returns on investment and time every event to within a nanosecond of its existence! But we talk about organizational culture, communications, learning and how we intend to use them in achieving the successful transition for the people involved.

When we look at communications we have a message to deliver, and we try and use the most effective words for the audience. Do we ever really think about the style, look and shape of that message? What about the design of posters, web pages or newsletters talking about the changes coming? We should be thinking about designs that attract attention, encourage the right emotional responses and gain understanding.  Creating a black and white typed sheet as a newsletter is not the most thrilling of communications to read – don’t you think something with colour, patterns and some styles would be more attractive, read by more people and thus get the message through to more people.

If your considering learning activities – does it have to be “death by PowerPoint”. I worked on some learning materials a few years back where we created a CD-ROM with a set of video files, where one of the current staff talked through each piece of the process change. Having these 30 second clips to hand was a huge asset for the people learning the new process! It didn’t take much to do, but had a huge impact. Learning should be designed for the recipient not the teacher’s benefit!

I’m sure there are other opportunities to support change using arts and culture. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’m sure the right picture is worth a thousand change discussions! What about memory joggers in the shape of a new product being launched? How about using a cleverly designed screensaver to remind people of the impending system changes (I’ve seen that deployed!).

I have always felt enthused and invigorated after spending some time with art and I wonder if it would also be an opportunity for many others to consider it as an option for change fatigue. So many businesses have an accelerating change program that the people are getting tired of the amount of change they are experiencing – could well-placed art and cultural experiences give the opportunity to recharge their batteries and reinvigorate the enthusiasm for change?

And for those that are interested, I have no artistic capabilities and do not see this as opportunity to branch into that arena!



Click here to subscribe to the Change Management Newsletter