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Agon in the Office – Contests and Gatherings in the Theatre of Work

Agon in the Office – Contests and Gatherings in the Theatre of Work

By Jessica Burlingame – Tuesday 10th April 2018

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Tavistock Institute

April 17, 2018
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  1. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    Agon in the Office: Gatherings and Contests in the Theatre of Work Jessica Burlingame Tavistock Institute for Human Relations, London 10 April 2018
  2. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    AGENDA 1) Origin story: why agon, why now? 2) Competing and gathering, Part 1: Global MBA Admissions 3) Competing and gathering, Part 2: Live Theatre 4) Competing and gathering, Part 3: Here and Now 5) Debrief/Q&A
  3. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    1) Origin story: Why agon, why now?
  4. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    Agon at the Ballet: New York City, 1957
  5. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    Partners in Agon: Stravinsky/Balanchine
  6. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    The Agon of Influence: Harold Bloom
  7. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    Agon through the ages: Piazza Navona
  8. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    What lies beneath: Domitian’s stadium
  9. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    Lost (and found) in translation “The root meaning of the word agon is “gathering.” (Fitzgerald 1987) “The agon was a motive power known to no other people … victory in the agon, that is noble victory without enmity, appears to have been the ancient expression of the peaceful victory of the individual.” (Burckhardt (trans. Stern) 1998)
  10. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    2) Competing and Gathering, Part 1: Global MBA Admissions
  11. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    Characteristics of the Work • 1 : 1 consultant : client relationships • Highly confidential • Often virtual • Objective is to compete and prevail • Fixed number of available places; expanding number of applicants for those places • VUCA
  12. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    Enter the Group • ~ 2012: Selected institutions introduce required group evaluations of candidates • 1 : 5 consultant : client relationships • Competition now requires skilled/effective gathering • Group Relations practice becomes explicitly relevant/advantageous
  13. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    3) Competing and Gathering, Part 2: Live Theatre
  14. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    Gathering and the Group in Theatre • “ … theatre is … the most extreme artistic representation of the art of collaboration.” (McBurney, qtd in Lecoq, 2000)
  15. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    “Impossible Scene, Take 1!” • Spring 2014, The Winter’s Tale • Shakespeare’s stage directions are few; this play contains the most famous of them • “Aha” moment: the work done to realize this “impossible” scene can/should translate into other organizations, artistic or otherwise
  16. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    “Impossible Scene, Take 2!” • Fall 2014, The Master and Margarita • A production arguably over-ambitious; unarguably under-resourced • First-ever delayed opening due to underpreparation • “Aha” moment: the work done to prevail in this “impossible” situation can/should also translate elsewhere
  17. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    The Possible Scene: What Made it Work? • Clarity of task: produce a show for our audiences • Clarity of roles: actors, director, crew • Clarity of boundaries: rehearsal schedules, show times • Skilled work (and play) with authority in the here-and- now of rehearsal and performance
  18. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    4) Competing and Gathering, Part 3: Here and Now
  19. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    5) Debrief/Q&A
  20. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    For further reading: “… W.R. Bion (Experiences in Groups, 1968) … gives an example of a group not getting anywhere … What he has is a group where everyone attacks the status of everyone else, while pretending to be friendly.” (Johnstone 1979, 34-35)
  21. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    For further play: “If [Bion] taught them to play status transactions as games, then the feeling in the group would improve. A lot of laughter would have been released, and the group might have flipped over from acting as a competitive group to acting as a co-operative one. It’s worth noting how much talent is locked away … “
  22. Copyright Jessica Burlingame & Agon Advisors, 2018. All rights reserved.

    Agon in the Office: Gatherings and Contests in the Theatre of Work Jessica Burlingame Tavistock Institute for Human Relations, London 10 April 2018