When we established Theater of Inclusion fifteen years ago we were focused on identifying the skill sets required to open up open dialogue. This meant boot-strap problem-solving. This meant paying close attention to how individuals expressed themselves. We had to back up and back up some more to look carefully at how people exhibited their ideas and desires.
If you can’t talk how do you get things out? If you can’t hear how do you join a conversation of verbal speakers? If the chemistry in your mind means that you don’t long for the ambiguities of modern art then what do you do with contemporary artists? We were able to focus our work on expression rather than idea. What we found was a world of expressive strategies that moved us way beyond the ideas that dominate art, design, thought-growth, and innovation.
We found groups of people everywhere forging their communication one conversation at a time – often one word at a time. We found people making the effort to work things out, to develop connections, to explore their actions out in the open. We learned quickly that face-to-face relationships dominate human interaction. We adjusted our methods accordingly. We used the phrase “We are equal. Period.” as a way of gauging our decisions and moving forward. We chose deliberate designs that invited, inspired, and included everyone. Both Rebecca and I grew up in families that opened their arms and their houses to the surrounding neighborhoods. We didn’t have to learn hospitality as a second language. Our parents expected it of us.
So now our work is very much about keeping openness and hospitality relevant and critical in today’s new normal with each person constantly relearning how to juggle a hundred things – at work, at home, and even in our third spaces. I doubt there will be a slow-business movement following the slow-food movement anytime soon. The art of business, at this moment, dictates that once you learn how to do something you increase the quality, the quantity, and the speed of delivery forever. At least this is the narrative that business generates and brands for itself. Still, I like all the “people” in there, doing business, getting things done, solving crazy-complex problems. Just ask your barista about the problems she had to solve in the last couple of hours before you showed up for a cup of coffee. Don’t be surprised if she expresses her ideas with thoughtfulness and with hospitality.