Using the arts as a catalyst for transformation

Arts-based dialogue had a transformational impact on the Ginger Group Collaborative

Challenge: The Ginger Group Collaborative, a network of organizational consultants nedeed to figure out if they should stay together or disband.

“We weren’t ready to give up, but we weren’t sure what might emerge next. Somehow we had to test our deeper sense of purpose and commitment to the possibilities. Do we have the energy and vision to stay together?’ ‘Is it time to go into business together?’ ‘Are we going to get real or not?’ We were at a turning point.”

Solution: “We invited Linda Naiman to bring her collaborative painting techniques to our retreat at Edenvale Center in British Columbia, to help us have a conversation we were finding difficult, “to go beyond simply the words and create a picture of the story that was in the process of unfolding.”

The collaborative painting activities created a crucible for deeper levels of conversation, and “they found themselves telling stories of sensitive issues, personal journeys, and visions of their future. The retreat fostered open inquiry, sparked new energy, and ignited a sense of team spirit.” (Osborn)

One of the associates said “The paintings were a source of intimacy the group needs to stay together and provided a forum for rich and insightful dialogue. We realized that the archetypes that emerged in the images of our painting represented the essence of what we wanted to convey about collaboration to our public.”


“We had struck a vein of gold that helped us shape our future together.”

Through arts-based dialogue, the Ginger Group discovered other ways of knowing and expressing what matters. “We have learned that it’s not about making art, not about performance. It’s about creating meaning together, using powerful visual symbols and images that come from the deepest parts of our being.”

Using the arts as a catalyst for creativity and group collaboration

At a quarterly meeting for a global team of HR managers at BP International, we used painting activities as ice-breakers to energize the group and set the tone for productive brainstorming. We applied artful thinking as part of a problem-solving process, to help the group re-frame, quickly find solutions to the challenges they were facing.

Arts-Based Team Building at a Corporate Retreat 

Linda Naiman led a US-based R&D team from a multi-national food company through several painting activities involving communication and collaboration. The purpose was to help the group create an environment in their workplace that would be more conducive to innovation. Their corporate culture placed such a strong emphasis on science, competition and high performance, that it was risk adverse and therefore created an impediment to creativity.

As the client put it,

“The painting exercises definitely got us in touch with capabilities that usually lie dormant in our current environment.”

A small miracle happened as a result of the visual dialogue exercise. One of the pairs (a man and a woman) were also team-mates in their work, and never had gotten along with each other. They reported to the group, they had unleashed all their passion and hostility in their painting and had fun in the process. When they discussed the picture they had created they came to a new understanding and appreciation of each other and how they could work together.

Reflections from the client post-workshop:

I’ve thought a great deal about our experience with you and about art in business. You are involved in a truly pioneering effort to help us keep the personal, ‘heart matters’ in the foreground as we manage our increasingly ‘technical’ business. Successful pioneering in our own industry starts with the sharing of a new, different, and compelling corporate vision. A shared vision is possible only if each of our personal visions are brought forward, honored and made part of the whole picture. We can articulate our personal vision only as well as we can reveal our true selves. Revealing one’s true self is an artful act, and a matter of the heart.

Your work with us showed this so well, and your quote from Gandhi –“If you want something really important to be done you must not merely satisfy the reason, you must satisfy the heart also” — echoes the learning. For those who would ask, ‘… and just how does art benefit my business?’, I would offer, “If your business has important, pioneering work to do, then develop artful capabilities in your associates just as well as technical skills, else you’ll work at half-strength at best, and risk losing all the benefit of their passion.” Now, there is a connection between art and the bottom line.

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