A Space to Change
Space: Human spaces speak to us. Articulated for a particular function or purpose, spaces
communicate what is worthwhile, meaningful and acceptable within their boundaries. Spaces
are structured to welcome certain patterns of action and response, but not others.
Human spaces can also control us, although it is not what we design them to do. Spaces are
meant to focus, not to imprison, our thoughts, actions and feelings. All too easily, however,
our spaces become our boxes.
By contrast, Ambalam is abstract space. All manifest spaces have form and structure, but
space itself does not. Like plasticine, waiting to be shaped by human hands, its possibilities
Vision, Structure & the Manager: Globalization places special demands on companies.
Whether companies face an economic slowdown or a buoyant market, they are called upon
to reinvent themselves, to innovate in ways for which their prior corporate experience does
not prepare them. Never before has the past been a less reliable guide for steering companies
into an assured future.
How can companies re-envision themselves in response to a radically altered market place?
How can managers, who perceive their corporate role in terms of specific tasks and
responsibilities, become capable of inspiring, promoting and managing change?
The best companies embed a vision and adopt structures and processes to realize it.
Companies need vision – to motivate thought and action. They need structure too – to
direct thought and action. But what do they need to change habits of thought and action?
Companies create conditions for managers to develop and hone the competencies they need
for current assignments or new responsibilities. Managers are enabled to give their best
within an established frame of reference, not to become competent at questioning it. But
often this is precisely what they must do in times of market turbulence, reversal or crisis.
Altering a company’s terms of engagement with the market calls for managers to experience
and enlarge their inner resources to face the challenge of the unknown. Companies specialize
in training managers for better performance, not in creating space for self-exploration and
inner discovery. They must seek that space elsewhere. Ambalam will provide it.
Vision, Structure & the Artist: Art is fidelity to failure – a poet once wrote. His point was
not just that to risk failure is the calling of artists, but that to be dissatisfied is fundamental to
their temperament. Artists strive to reach what they cannot grasp, and they look upon what
they achieve as ever falling short of what they imagine. As the result, artists rarely allow the
ghost of past ‘success’ to haunt their capacity to innovate into the future.
Artists value structure, but they are also inclined to challenge it, treating the stability and
certainty that it offers with necessary suspicion. They are acutely aware of how double-edged
structure can be – how it can channelize creativity in one moment but block it in the next.
Art is an activity as organized as management. The difference is that artists constantly strive
to create a fresh vision and another order. Impatient with the tried, tested and trodden, they
unravel established idioms to create anew. Even more fundamentally, they empty themselves
to listen anew, to make room for the unique presence of things to take root in them once
again. Only then, they know, does the genuinely new emerge.
Companies must question their structures of work in a rapidly changing business
environment. But unlearning entrenched patterns of thought and action might take too long,
or come about too late – unless what routinely transpires in the arts becomes commonplace
Managers need not become artists, but they can experience their own world with an artist’s
outlook, learning how to absorb it without judgment and explore it without fear. Ambalam
helps to make that happen.
Ambalam: If corporations provide the stage on which managers perform, Ambalam creates
a space in which they can rehearse. Such a space is necessary because managers must work
on themselves, and not only on enhancing their skills, to prepare for new roles and challenges
in a globalizing world.
Ambalam introduces managers to processes in the arts that mimic their own changing reality.
This, we believe, would enable them to experience their reality differently, reflect on their
relationship to it from a perspective altered by an encounter with the self, and manage an
easy flow between inner and outer processes of transformation.
Ambalam brings together Ramnath Narayanswamy, Professor at the Indian Institute of
Management, Bangalore, Raghu Ananthanarayanan, Chief Consultant and Director, Tao
Systems Consultants Pvt. Ltd., Chennai, and Anmol Vellani, Executive Director, India
Foundation for the Arts, Bangalore.
What brings them together is a strong belief that management and the arts can enrich and
transform each other for the better. Their careers, not surprisingly, have straddled both
worlds in different ways. Ramnath has pioneered an elective course called Tracking Creative
Boundaries in which accomplished artists engage potential managers in a dialogue on lives,
processes and creativity in the arts. Raghu has conducted several workshops with managers
using theatre as a context for deep introspection and leadership training. Anmol is a theatre
director and leads an independent, national grant making organization for the arts.
The Ambalam Workshop
A Manager Prepares
Theatre & the Self: Theatre is an important resource for managers. It facilitates a journey
from self-consciousness to consciousness of self. Self-consciousness inhibits, consciousness
of self liberates. Theatre enables us to shift our focus from other people and how we appear
to them, to our self and how we experience it.
We compose a self for the world. There are many reasons why we do it – to be liked,
admired or accepted, for example. We become attached to this self and feel vulnerable if
pressed to act from outside its frame of reference. What might happen if we could shed our
composed self as we do our other daily wear?
This is how actors prepare for performance. They collapse their image of themselves to
enter the skin of a character. In the process, they enter their own skin more deeply. They
begin to explore their inner resources, listening to themselves more closely, but also erasing
themselves to listen to others afresh. Theatre processes empower actors to experience the
self as plastic, limitless, kaleidoscopic.
Exploring the Self in Space: The Ambalam Workshop will create a space in which
managers can prepare for leadership. It will use theatre processes to enable them to tune into
their self, its stances and responses. The aim will be to amplify awareness of the limits within
which managers operate and relate to their environment. Do they experience themselves as
victims of established norms, functions and expectations? Do they feel constricted by the
presence of people, the character of space, the dynamic of a group or the intent of a
structure? Or do they feel themselves opening out to new possibilities?
Equally managers will be enabled to explore their capacity to tune into other people. Does
their position or authority influence how they hear their own voice and how they listen to
others? Or are they able to eliminate the noise of their professional self, which interferes
with empathy and intuition? Can they achieve enough distance from their self-image to flow
with the rhythm and expression of other beings?
Expanding the Space for the Self: Tuning into your self and tuning into other people are
parallel processes, the one reinforcing the other. So if managers begin to hear their own
voice differently, others will be revealed to them differently, and vice versa. And only then
can they find true reciprocity in exchange and practice freedom.
The Workshop will thus strive to put managers in touch with a self that they might not
have suspected exists – a self that has not been circumscribed by professional or even
personal relationships and contexts. Within this self – which is inner-centered and not
centered in the world – lies the potential of managers to turn the tables in their work
environment, to act upon the very influences that might hitherto have acted upon them,
and to introduce new meanings into their world.
In this workshop, Ambalam seeks to reach out to corporate bodies located in Indian
industry including segments of both the ‘old’ (brick and mortar, retailing, banking, insurance,
finance) and ‘new’ (information technology, entertainment, media, communications)
economy. Having witnessed close to rapid growth in the past several decades, Indian
industry is currently experiencing its first external shock as a result of an unprecedented
global economic slowdown. Meeting such challenges resulting from exogenous disorder call
for creative solutions.
Such solutions cannot be explored unless managers challenge themselves: to beat the
competition, they need to first beat themselves. The workshop will be particularly useful for
senior managers working in Indian industry who are involved in such areas as human
resources, product development, strategy, research and development and decision-making.
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