How To Write Enterprise Poetry
by Brian Mulconrey
There is no set "formula" for writing enterprise poetry. While an enterprise poem springs from an inspired individual, there is more to it than just individual artistic expression. I believe that this format can help individuals and organizations to imagine future enterprises and think creatively about some of the implications of these new enterprise structures. But here are a few things to keep in mind before trying your hand at enterprise poetry.
1. Inspiration First
A poet whose work I respect a great deal recently advised me that, "Poetry cannot be written by design. All good poetry springs from inspiration." This is where "enterprise poetry" can break down if embraced as a "formula" for inventing new enterprises. On the other hand, it is my firm belief that some people are inspired with visions of tomorrow's enterprises in much the same way that William Blake could "see a world in a grain of sand." Years before Disneyland became a reality; Walt Disney was inspired by his vision for a new type of amusement park. Douglas Engelbart, holder of the first patent on the computer mouse and inventor of the first working hypertext system (the prefix of each website address is http or hyper text transfer protocol) was inspired by a vision for how computer technology would "augment" the human intellect.
These are only two highly visible individuals inspired by a vision for the enterprises of tomorrow well before those enterprises became real to the rest of us. We know how human relationships and nature can inspire poetry. In certain individuals, the enterprises of tomorrow can also inspire poetry.
I recently wrote an article for the
London Business School's LABNOTES publication that
explored the link between strategy inspiration and poetry - Poetry
Inc by Brian Mulconrey (see page 5).
2. Drink in Driving Forces
Science fiction writer William Gibson is often quoted as observing, "The future is already here; it's just not evenly distributed." Many of the driving forces that will shape tomorrow's enterprises are already here today. In the early 1960's, it was clear to visionaries like Doug Engelbart that "personal" computing would develop over the next few decades due to advances in computer chip technology that had arrived in the late 1950's. If you want to write enterprise poetry, become a student of driving forces. Chip technology drove the computer industry. Genetic engineering advances are driving the future of medicine. In my mind, driving forces are the "verbs" in the language of enterprise.
I use an acronym to remember the five major stages on which driving forces will play out - STEEP (Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, and Political). The point is that these forces don't act by themselves. The future of medicine will be driven by technical genetic engineering advances AND by the social forces that arise or don't arise to govern the ethical application of these technologies.
3. Enterprise Poetry in Your Organization
Enterprise poetry can be a powerful catalyst for stimulating strategic conversation within an organization. But, in addition to point #1 above, it is also very difficult for individuals to grasp the full spectrum of driving forces impacting their organizations. Royal Dutch Shell pioneered a systematic scenario planning process that explores and shares driving forces widely throughout the enterprise. Peter Schwartz, Co-Founder of Global Business Network (and former head of scenario planning at Shell) wrote a landmark book titled "The Art of the Long View" that describes this process and shares the art of thinking systemically about driving forces. For individuals who find the exploration of alternative enterprise structures inspiring, scenario planning at the organizational level can provide the raw materials for imagining new enterprise pathways into the future.
4. Make Something New Happen
The fact is that anything you write can be enterprise poetry if you make something new happen. As Aristotle observed over 23 centuries ago, "It is not the function of the poet describe what has happened." Similarly, it is not the function of the enterprise poet to "get the future right." Enterprise poems are not "predictions" of future enterprises. They are explorations into the possibility of future enterprises. These journeys may not describe accurately the enterprises that actually emerge, but if your enterprise poem takes the reader to a new place, it will stimulate the imagination and perhaps lead to new insights.
5. Relax and Set Your Imagination Free
Finally, don't just rush from inspiration into words. Take some time to let your imagination wander over the landscape to be occupied by your future enterprise. You don't have to be a "futurist" or "scenario planner" to write enterprise poetry. The only requirement is that you find yourself inspired by possibilities for future enterprises and invest the effort required to transform your vision into poetry.