Dance Your Way to Creativity

By Shlomo   Maital

                                                    Pilobolus         Pilobolus

    A Bloomberg Business Week article * tells about a group of dancers who believe that “the path to creativity begins with discovering your “groupness” through movement”.  The group is Pilobolus, based in Washington, Connecticut, two hours’ north of NYC.  They’ve existed for 40 years.   In most dance companies, there is a dictator, known as a choreographer.  The dancers struggle to fulfill the dictators’ wishes and vision.   Pilobolus works differently.   Here is how:

      “Pilobolus, by contrast, believes productivity is the only measure of creativity. And productivity begins with groups working well together. “Everyone in the world makes everything the same way,”   says Itamar Kubovy, the group’s CEO. “The group throws ideas down. Then it shifts gears and evaluates the ideas, to sort wheat from chaff. Then there’s some process of assembling the things that survive. Then the results of that action must be sent out into the world.   …Every dancer is expected to help develop the routines that add up to a performance. Pilobolus believes this theory of creativity, based on mingling cultures and collaboration can be used by businesses. 

    “On the morning I watch Pilobolus rehearse, eight dancers are at work before a brightly lit white screen to prepare a shadow dance for a German television show. They start with one move, add another, then try something else and piece by piece it is assembled. Matt Kent, artistic director of this performance, and Mr Kubovy interject with ideas but the dancers mostly figure out what to do themselves. Orchestrating their movements into a visually precise and interesting dance is a form of organizational magic. ”

 Pilobolus is now teaching its approach to companies and to management. I believe the structure of this approach is similar to other proven innovation methods.  First divergent thinking — zoom out, toss ideas out.  Then, stop!  Converge!  Sort and sift, toss out ideas that don’t work, narrow down the range of choice.  You may have to open the process again, several times, until the final convergence occurs, to the final version of the dance. 

  I always believed that creativity and the ideas it spawns are born inside individual brains; only then are ideas developed into innovations through teamwork.  But with Pilobolus, apparently there are ways to spawn ideas right from the outset, in a group setting.

     It works for dance.   Can it also work for innovating goods and services, processes and business  designs?


* Philip Delves Broughton,  “A group approach to corporate creativity” Bloomberg Business Week,  December 26, 2012