5 women of different cultural, professional and ethnic background read and interpret poetry to improve their communication skills and create a sense of belonging. Project teams and working groups could do the same.
Our Western realities are getting ever more complex. Members of an increasingly pluralistic society - individuals, teams, organisations and governments alike - are struggling with identity issues, motivation and performance. We cannot ignore this fact any longer, says Swiss-born philosopher Rahel Jaeggi. We need to find out who we can be as individuals, teams and communities in this new context. This will ask for a new definition of our shared values, our ethics, and our way of making meaning.
Research has shown that social context has a huge impact on the process of belonging and learning. This is why communities of practice can provide a powerful environment for making meaning, creating a sense of belonging, and improving relevant skills. What are called 21st century skills, including critical thinking skills, empathy, communication and collaboration skills, will become key to the current search for identity in pluralistic Western societies. How can we see difference and diversity as a resource, rather than a threat? How can we develop new solutions to the problems we face in a global village? What can our new concept of solidarity look like? What do we have in common, what can we build upon?
Poetry as a social glue
As we cannot easily find answers to these complex questions all at once we need to start somewhere. A group of 5 women from 5 different countries - Austria, the Philippines, Romania, Germany and Iran -, who have different professional and ethnic backgrounds and who live in the same city, participated in a small Poetry in Business™ event in Vienna's renowned Museum of Art History. A painting by the Dutch painter Vermeer, which is currently on exhibition, inspired the poet to write about self-identity, empowerment and values in our increasingly pluralistic society.
Poetry in Business™ uses artistic media like poems to set the social context for collaborative learning. Focussed initiatives like this museum field trip empower participants to share their wisdom, thoughts and experiences and at the same time build cultural bridges, explore new ways of thinking and create a sense of belonging. Teams, project teams and working groups in the public and private sectors that struggle with identity issues, performance, motivation, innovation, communication and strategic challenges need to start supporting individuals in their search for identity, in building cultural bridges, developing relevant 21st century skills and creating a sense of belonging. One way of doing this is initiating and nurturing small communities of practice like the one described here.