Re-igniting Organizational Creativity: The Tango as Metaphor

Ongoing Commitment to Skill and Technique

From Tango 360: Embraces -- with Celena Turney and Guy Sharma

From Tango 360: Embraces -- with Celena Turney and Guy Sharma

In the intricate partner dance of tango, dancers start by building a vocabulary of steps and creating small combinations.  Then it is practice, study, refine, and practice for hours, days, months, and years on end.  With each practice, each dancer gains a deeper understanding about how best to articulate the body while in motion, wordlessly communicate movement ideas to their partner, and explore different expressions of energy to convey meaning.  As skill and technique become more refined, steps have greater strength, shape, and definition.  The dance takes on an effortless quality.  Dancers appear to move as one, gliding around the dance floor.

For some, the focus quickly becomes about participating in the community and in the social aspects of the dance.  On feeling the rush that comes when movement, music, and humanity blend into a delightful, passionate embrace.  As practice and study fall by the wayside,  skill and technique are marginalized in the urgency to satisfy a short-term goal.

With dwindling skills and rusty technique, movement becomes effortful and balance becomes unsteadier.  Few partners will want to share the dance with them.  Fewer opportunities to dance beget even fewer opportunities.  And so begins the downward spiral.

The solution is to recommit to the dance.  Reinvigorate training and practice.  Become inspired again about deepening knowledge of the dance.  Approach practice with a beginner’s mind.

In an organization, this downward spiral can also unwittingly occur. Organizations form because of a passionate drive to accomplish their vision through programming.  At the onset, staff and volunteers have or develop the necessary skills for program implementation, sufficient program resources are acquired and allocated, and a suitable program management structure is put into place.  These are the building blocks -- the skills and techniques -- that enable an organization’s unique programs to serve their intended audiences.

The organization flourishes.  Its programs are meeting the needs of its audiences.  There is a call for more.  There is a palatable euphoria that occurs as a result of witnessing an excellent idea become reality.  It spurs an expansion of creative energy, services, locations, and funding outreach. 

It is a synchronous explosion of success that many organizations find themselves in, without the necessary foundation and support.  In the moments of growth, organizations are tempted to dance on without building internal skills and technique.  There just isn’t enough time.  Staff is spread too thinly and because programs have grown so quickly, programs lack the strength, definition, and articulation they once had.  Staff and resources are drifting.

The solution for organizations in this predicament is to recommit to the dance!  Learn more about the field.  Learn more about resource management.   Learn more about the community being served.  Practice engaging with staff and like-minded colleagues to identify needs and allocate resources strategically.  Distinguish the organization from others in the field by articulating programs and fully supporting them.  Ensure that programs emit an elegant effortlessness -- a quality that comes from investing in and acquiring advanced skills and practiced technique.  Approach the work with a beginner’s mind.

About Celena Turney -- I am a learning and development specialist and have worked with lots of different types and sizes of organizations during the last 20 years.  I have found that using metaphors is a very effective way to begin discussions on solutioning specific obstacles.  I am also a dancer.  I find that I see the world in terms of movement through space and that my service to an organization is like studying the choreography of all of its resources, both internally and externally.  I decided to write a series of articles for organizational leaders using the metaphor of tango, to encourage you to experience your work and envision solutions to barriers using new imagery.  Connect with me at: or @CelenaTurney.