Sunday, June 14, 2009

Corporate Theatre

I have learnt the concept of training during my post-graduation course and have implemented it at various occasions in my work-life. I have also got trained by various methodologies in the last few years. But this was my first exposure to Corporate Theatre and training through the theatre methodology and what a refreshing experience it was...

This was the introduction sheet to the training :

Dress Code: Absolutely Informal. Wear something loose and comfortable that will allow sitting, lying, or rolling on the floor. (Rolling on the floor - was this corporate training or some kid's workshop?) Ladies are advised to avoid Saris as they inhibit free movement.

Bring nothing with you - no notebooks, pads, or pens. Note-taking is strictly forbidden.

Footwear to be left outside the hall. Along with footwear, participants are requested to leave adult personalities, seniority, designations, and hierarchy, outside. Whatever is needed from among these can be retrieved on the way back after the workshop. (I completely loved this statement).

Bring cameras along. You will catch yourselves and each other in amazing postures and costumes and with unbelievable expressions that you may find difficult to replicate afterwards. You will want to preserve them for posterity and show it to parents, spouses, children, and grandchildren down the years. However don't expect them to believe it is YOU !! (This really intrigued my imagination!)

When I read this as a prelude to a training program I was scheduled to attend later in the week, I was sure about one thing : it would not be the conventional training programs that I've been used to.

When I entered the hotel and was ushered to the Training Center, I was surprised to find that there were no chairs, no projectors, laptops - not even a whiteboard or a flip-chart. Instead, there were mattresses and bolsters along the three walls at one end of the hall. All chairs were stacked in one corner. And the participants were stretched out comfortably on the mattresses and bolsters, casually chatting with each other. The atmosphere was warm and if I may add, very homely!

Mr. Paul Mathew, the trainer, came across as someone who was really passionate about theatre and his entire life was dedicated to this sole passion. He emphasized the basic learning principles on which the "Corporate Theatre" methodology is based:

1. Learning happens best in the 'child' state : In the 'adult' state, one has most of the answers, very few questions. Made a lot of sense. Have you heard any kid say / think : What will my mom / dad / teacher / friend think of me if I ask them this question? They are free from the 'looking good' mentality and hence are open to a huge amount of learning - their curiosity for learning and inconsideration towards 'What-Will-Others-Think' attitude, fosters an immense speed , gamut of exposure and assimilation of knowledge. As we grow, we get into a lot of complexities and our inhibitions and ego that we already know so much stop us from asking questions and thus our learning becomes lesser and lesser.

2. No one can train another : The onus is on the learner. Unless the learner chooses to learn, learning does not take place. True, isn't it? Until and unless you want to learn, you may be present at the workshop physically but me mentally absent.

3. One person's knowledge need not be relevant to another : Learning is best when each one gets in touch with their own wisdom. This I completely relate to. The 'Aa-ha' moment comes when a particular point sticks on to you since you can relate to it from your past experiences. The other participants also hear the same lines but they may not get impacted the way you do. And then no amount of note-taking is necessary. It remains with you long after the sessions are done.

4. Transformation is the most immediate and direct result of learning : If there is no transformation, there has been no learning. This sums up any training program. Change and learning are essential to training and if there is positive transformation, even in a small measure, the training has impacted you.

The training was competely an activity based methodology and we did various group tasks, the finale being, using basic artcles like chart paper, bed sheets, felt pens etc, to create a scene which would not have dialogues but we would freeze, on the count, and basis our expressons, arrangement of the props etc, the other groups would have to guess what we were portraying.

My biggest learning out of this workshop was that, a diverse group of people, from various walks of life, can play up to their strengths and keeping their individual ego aside, work with single minded focus so that the team wins. Individuals didn't have to be complete in themselves but the team neede to be, by playing up to each individual's strengths.

Paul stretched this concept of teamwork into the way we use Performance Appraisals in our workplaces.
He stressed on the fact that an incorrect appraisal system could make people compete against each other in an unhealthy way rather than collaborating to work towards team goals.

Differentiation is key in team appraisals, on the lines of what I had discussed in my post 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'. But the process should be such that if the team loses, no one gets rewarded, no matter how well they have individually performed. If the team succeeds in iys objective, everyone gets amply rewarded. And here, the winning team will differentiate its performers into top, middle and bottom.

Over a couple of cycles of appraisal, this will ensure that the Team weeds out the non-committed far more ruthlessly than a 'boss' can do it. Only those who can and want to contribute, are tolerated by a natural Team. When the Team does the rating, there is no perceived unfairness or injustice. It is not one person's appraisal. And unless a Team is 'suicidal' the rating will be ruthlessly fair. If not, they realize that ultimately everyone loses.

As I have said earlier, only a robust Performance Management System can build credibility in the process. There are various ways to differentiate and this is one of the ways.


  1. nice yaar and i do agree with quite a few of them esp. the one that we learn best in our 'child' state of mind.

  2. Hmm... yeh toh bahut interesting hain...

    I like the concept that we only learn in the kids' mode and we cease to accept things in the adult mode...

    This approach is really fun... am sure it was pure fun to participate in everything as a team... and win it. :)

  3. Been a while .....
    Need to get to watch theatre :)

  4. DD,

    Thanks for sharing it. I did like the approach or methodology. If we leave our ego and fear out we can learn a lot. Team spirit is one factor we need to encourage.

    Take care

    PS : Would appreciate your views on my recent posts.

  5. "participants are requested to leave adult personalities, seniority, designations, and hierarchy, outside." I love that line. I wish it were used more often in other situations!!

  6. @ joiedevivre : Hai na... :)

    @ I'll try 2 be truthful : Yeah... and after the training, when I looked around at the pace at which kids grasp things... I was really impressed.

    @ Harshita : Yeah.. an eye-opener. And sure was great creating the live theatre experience.

    @ Rahul Viswanath : You should... much more spontaneous than movies.

    @ Jack : Sure!

    @ iamyuva : Thanks

    @ Roshni Mitra Chintalapati : exactly my thought! :)

    @ eye-in-sty-in : Thanks!