Management Meets Poetry

While reading through the "Poetry in the Boardroom: Thinking Beyond the Facts" (Journal of Business Strategy, Volume 26, Issue 1, January 2005) transcript I thought it would be interesting to mash things a bit up.

JBS Editor Nanci Healy facilitated a roundtable discussion among Clare Morgan (Oxford University), Kirsten Lange (Boston Consulting Group, Munich) and Ted Buswick (Boston Consulting Group, Boston) on poetry and business strategy, two subjects that don’t ordinarily go together. (Source)

Traveling through the Dark

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—,
then pushed her over the edge into the river. (Source)

We chose a poem that showed how complex making decisions is: complex, that is, in terms of how so many different elements can affect how we see ‘the facts’. The CEO was very pleased that the content of the poem opened up a wide-ranging discussion of real issues like:

when is the right time to kill off a project?

What influences we may not be aware of are affecting how we prioritize value and make fine judgements?

The poem also opened up how we may be judged, for making tough choices that affect the lives of others. The CEO liked the way the discussion highlighted that in many cases there is not a clear cut right or wrong to the decision we’re faced with. Sometimes the information we have is incomplete, or the different strands of need cannot be definitively prioritized. The poem we used at the workshop was ‘Traveling Through the Dark’, by William Stafford, and it reminded the management team just how much ‘in the dark’ we often are at important decision-making moments.(Source)

It is the business of government to open and secure the road for the merchants.

Lord Palmerston (1784 – 1865)