Blogs >> How to build an organisation that is as nimble as change itself by Richard Olivier

How to build an organisation that is as nimble as change itself by Richard Olivier

Richard Olivier leadership course at Schumacher College

Preparing for the ‘Brave New World”

By Richard Olivier, Artistic Director & Founder of Olivier Mythodrama

Change is inevitable in every aspect of life; and none more so than “business”. Driven by factors including political and socio-economic, as well as internal challenges, it will happen whether business likes it or not.   As this happens, how do organisational leadership teams adapt, and take their firms on these new journeys?

The first step is to recognise that organisations, like all systems in nature, must ‘evolve or die’. But as the American writer James Baldwin sais; “most of us are as eager to be changed as we were to be born – and go through our changes in a similar state of shock!”

The best preparation for change is effective learning and development, training and, crucially, ‘rehearsal’. We don’t expect our leading actors, politicians or sports heroes to perform at their best without serious preparation, but all too often we expect our leaders to do just this – and are then disappointed when they efforts to lead change do not work.

Building the future

According to a recent study by Deloitte, millennials only want to stay in organisations that continuously develop them, and those intending to stay with their organisation for at least five years are far more likely than others to report a positive culture and focus on the needs of the individual.  Clearly, there is something to be said for offering leadership training that develops people as individuals as well as improves the leadership culture of the organisation. So, how can firms instil a passion for development that stimulates the successful development of an organisation, and is flexible enough to meet the ever changing needs of our VUCA environment?

One part of the answer lies in offering your staff the opportunity to grow their leadership skills to manage change across the business.  Equally, it means hiring trainable people that have the potential to grow into leadership roles.  But, what training should be offered?

Mythodrama is the answer

To answer this, we look to William Shakespeare and the power of mythodramatic training. Shakespeare’s greatest stories offer crucial lessons in the fundamentals of what it means to be a human being in a position of power: how to act with conviction and integrity, how to inspire others in difficult times, how to hold both a ‘big picture’ as well as create urgency in the present, and the essential factors involved in wise decision-making.

Mythodramatic training uses techniques derived from theatre practice, informed by a profound understanding of psychology and contemporary organisational culture. It works on the brain, heart and body of people receiving training. Typically, it provides spaces for people to have the courageous conversations that often get brushed under the carpet at work – and provides a safe and challenging ‘rehearsal’ room atmosphere.  Here participants can reflect on current behaviour and desired futures, and then explore key elements of their professional lives in creative, practical ways.  Rather than simply thinking about the issues that people are faced with in their organisations, they are given the opportunity to imagine them, live into them, practice them, and get expert feedback to enable them to ‘act in’ their desired future selves much more effectively than that available with a purely cognitive approach.

Shakespeare’s The Tempest

The best leaders are able to hold an organisation through change, and be open to what needs to change in them. The story that best describes this transformational leadership is ‘The Tempest’, an alchemical tale of change and development. The story demonstrates the fundamental elements and archetypal roles involved in living through a transformation effort - especially one that seeks to integrate new leadership culture at the end of it.

It starts with the huge storm of the title in which the ‘old ship’, bearing the current leaders and their culture, is shaken to the core and eventually splits, leaving the leaders to find their way onto a small Island where they are tested and - most of them at least - eventually initiated into a new way of being, that is more aligned to the needs of the time.

The new leaders are taken away from the ‘normal world’ and meet on a ‘Learning Island’ where they are prepared to meet the ‘brave new world’ that is rapidly approaching them. A key learning at the end, is the recognition that not only have they created a more ‘fit for future’ purpose culture, but they have also ‘found more of themselves’ through the process. So they are both better leaders AND more self-aware human beings


Clearly, recruiting the best and right people within an organisation is a vital first step. But, in our rapidly changing world, what got you where you are will not get you where you need to go. The most valuable leaders in the 21st century will be those who learn how to learn on the job – and those who take their continuous development as seriously as meeting an external target.

Failure to recognise this and develop staff might just equate to a loss of momentum, inertia, reputation and, ultimately, revenue.  So, how do you develop an organisation that is as nimble as change itself?  Get your leaders ready for the storms of change. Take on The Tempest.

Leading with Soul – Authentic Leadership for Troubled Times
Mon, 07/05/2018 to Fri, 11/05/2018
A leadership course at Schumacher College, developed by Richard Olivier, a member of one of the world's most respected theatrical families. Join us at Schumacher College for a leadership courses based on mythology and the great plays of Shakespeare this May.