The Poetry of Business

rosesThe business of poetry (or “po’ biz”) is a well-established but much-bemoaned part of sustaining a career in poetry, including self-promotion and business networking. But its converse — the idea that there is actually a poetry to business — is something I suspect few professionals outside the arts have paused to consider. Running a career in IT and management consulting alongside a vocation reading, writing, editing and publishing contemporary poetry, I have spent a lot of time not only thinking about, but inhabiting, the parallels.

That is why I was pleased to see a recent article on “The Benefits of Poetry for Professionals” gaining attention on the HBR Blog. I agree heartily that poetry can help develop compassion and creativity. However, I disagree with the idea that poets “simplify” complexity, but would instead suggest that they are able to understand complexity by embracing it. Likewise, I consider poets not so much “systems thinkers” but “systems embracers” — including even the paradoxical aspects of the system.
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Poetry, Business, Synthesis, and Les McKeown’s Predictable Success

As I have said before, some of my favorite revelations burst forth from the pairing of seemingly unrelated events. In this case, I had the pleasure of meeting Les McKeown on Friday during an all-day workshop he gave for our company on the business principles contained within his much-anticipated first book, Predictable Success. And just now, I finished drafting a column for the poetry social networking website Read Write Poem, about how to nurture and sustain a poetic mindset. The relationship between poetry and business is a topic that I have been simmering for some time. Recently, though, it has developed into a broth worth serving into words.

Predictable Success outlines the life cycle of any organization, and especially businesses, just as surely as a developmental psychologist can tell you, in broad terms, that you are going to be going through certain stages in your individual growth. And as just much as it can help to be told that you are not alone in the tumult of adolescence (or really any stage of life), this book is likewise a balm.

But Les goes further in explaining how businesses at any stage of growth can progress to a state where success becomes predictable. This remarkable set of practices strikes me as equally applicable to the development of an artist. Even as a business learns to create necessary structure, in such a way that it still fosters collaboration and innovation, so, too, does any artist dance between discipline and creative abandon in learning to create and sustain a life steeped in art. Continue reading…