If you want to win, you need performance thinking and The Five Principles of Performance Thinking by Dr Mark Powell and Jonathan Gifford tells you just that. The organizations that are succeeding in the modern world are the ones that are putting on a great performance in the fullest sense of the world – the ones that are delighting their audiences. The Five Principles of Performance Thinking reveals the mindsets and techniques behind every great performance and shows us how to deliver winning performances of our own.
This book is, in many ways, the culmination of a train of thought that began four years ago with the publication of our first co-authored book, My Steam Engine Is Broken: Taking the organization from the industrial era to the age of ideas. We have published two other books since then: Perform to Win: Unlocking the secrets of the arts for personal and business success and Machiavellian Intelligence: How to survive and thrive in the modern corporation.
The titles of these books will have given you a clue about our joint obsessions: we believe that there is something very wrong with the way in which most modern organizations are structured and managed, and we believe that the solution to many of the prob.ems facing modern organizations will come from an unlikely but inspirational source: the performing arts.
In My Steam Engine is Broken, we argued that many organizations were effectively trapped in a mindset created 200 years ago during the First Industrial Revolution. That remarkable 18th-century disruption changed the world and all of our lives. because this was a manufacturing revolution, we adopted a mechanistic mindset: 0erfecting our processes, saving time, stopping waste, reducing error and being efficient. This was what mattered.
Efficiency still matters, but it has become a given. Being efficient doesn’t give us a cutting edge any more. What gives a cutting edge in business are brilliant new ideas, radical innovation and more disruption.
The industrial mindset doesn’t do disruption anymore. It doesn’t do creativity.
It does cleverness; it does improvement and ever-greater efficiency, but it doesn’t really do genuine creativity. And it hates disruption.
But creativity and disruption are what modern business needs in order to compete in the modern world. We live in a knowledge economy. It’s not the efficiency of our assembly lines that will help us create world-beating products, but the brilliance of our ideas (as we wrote in My Steam Engine Is Broken).
We need to get more creative. And the people who know about creativity – about bringing together groups of widely different people, forging them into an ensemble and rehearsing creatively until they find a way to put on a challenging, new, audience-pleasing performance – are performing artists.
We know what we are talking about. We – the co-authors of this book – share similar life experiences, in that we both built successful business careers while sustaining parallel careers in the performing arts.
Mark discovered a love of Latin American ballroom dancing while reading Economics and Management and subsequently studying for his PhD in Organizational Behaviour, both at the University of Cambridge. He became a highly successful business and strategy consultant in subsequent years and continued to dance competitively, winning more than 50 titles, including fur English, two British and two World Championships – the last achieved while he was a partner with KPMG.
Jonathan plays guitar, saxophone, flute and clarinet and played for many years in folk, jazz,soul and blues bands, first in Canterbury, where he studied philosophy at the University of Kent, and later to London as he was developing his career as a Fleet Street advertising man and, later, as a publisher for BBC Magazines. He was subsequently co-founder of a digital advertising agency and has had five other business books published under his own name, including the popular 100 Great Leadership Ideas, now in its third edition.
Both of us realized that the way we worked with people to create and deliver winning performances in dance and music was different from the way we worked with people in business – and that the collaborative, artistic approach of performing artists was better, more creative and more productive than the typical working relationship between executives in large corporations. We also realized that the mindsets and techniques of performing artists could be applied successfully to the world of business, turning teams into genuine ensembles, exploring new ideas in a spirit of creative rehearsal.
Bringing it back to the book
In this book, The Five Principles of Performance Thinking, we offer what, from our extensive experience in both the corporate world and the world of performing arts, is the solution to what we believe to be the key business issue of our times: How should modern corporations behave in order to inspire and enable their executives to look constantly for the most audience-pleasing solution to the corporation’s ongoing business challenges?
The answer, we believe, is to draw lessons from the world of the arts, where groups of very different people, all with large egos, come together in a spirit of trust and collaboration to experiment with new ideas and ways of doing things that enable their unique ensemble to deliver a brilliant performance that delights and enriches its audience. This audience-pleasing, enriching performance is, in fact, what our most successful businesses are delivering. Successful businesses engage with us at a human level. They delight us with their products and services.
We tend to measure business success by various numerical measures; the usual ‘metrics’. But at the heart of a set of business numbers will be a great performance. We talk about ‘customer satisfaction’ being one of our most important business metrics but seem to forget that satisfaction is an emotion – that human emotion is at the beating heart of our marvellously efficient Stem Engine organizations. And that our most important job, as successful businesses, is to create positive human emotions.
The authors continue to work with senior executives in experiential programmes that bring business; leaders into close contact with performing artists – and the results are always transformational. Leaders begin to see the world with fresh eyes. They see that there is a very different, ‘artistic’ way of coming together to find creative solutions and that these very different ways of working together can deliver truly outstanding results. It is impossible for anyone to watch world-class dancers, musicians or actors at close quarter and not to be inspired. ‘If our business could capture just a fraction of this skill and passion and creativity,’ they think, ‘we could take on the world.’ And it’s true.
This book distils our collective long and rich experiences into The Five Principles of Performance Thinking. Anyone who follows these principles will, we truly believe, find that they will begin to work with their colleagues in entirely new and exciting ways and that they will begin to deliver winning performances of their own, delighting their audiences.
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