Mumford, A. (2004), "Dramatic Success – Theatre Techniques to Transform and Inspire Your Working Life", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 36 No. 5, pp. 219-219. https://doi.org/10.1108/00197850410548648
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
The authors bring different original experience to the creation of this book, Leigh as an Executive, Maynard as a Writer, Actor and Director. Their initial case is that the use of drama in training and development is more than a metaphor, but that “applying performing arts technology energises, motivates and inspires people to give of their best.” The illustrations they provide are certainly wide – role play, the use of Shakespeare, team building via plays, Body Shop as a theatrical experience, a play showing conflict resolution, and the communication skills of presenting, understanding character and coaching others. The book illustrates each of these, and uses the structure of a play via different Acts. The comments for Act One are based initially on “Getting your personal act together”, by which they suggest individuals should establish the meaning of their work, and the values behind what they do. Then the direction shifts and they describe actors' main skill set also required by managers as being the ability to express feelings, a sense of humour, an ability to communicate clearly, and understanding of character. Thereafter the thrust of the book, and its utility, lies in the suggestions they make about particular incidents and experiences likely to be encountered by actors and directors and how these can be used to illustrate similar issues in management.
The strength of the book lies in the specific illustrations of behaviour. So for example the idea that you should recognise what you are trying to hear when listening to another person, and not just hear the words that person utters is a useful extension of some familiar ideas on listening skills. In association with this they make a point about not generalising about body language which is useful not only for its specific content about body language, but also as a proposition about too ready an adoption of only partly understood psychological factors. This is however, if I am right, a comment which could be applied to a number of the techniques suggested in the book!
Some of the analogies will be seen by some readers as unduly stretched. For example, they say that theatre directors draw out performances. This comment relates to a general proposition about not being able to instruct actors on what to do and how to do it. While many of us might agree with the virtues of non‐directive coaching, I am not sure their argument is fully explained.
The most problematical area for me was their proposition that “The best performers are always themselves; they do not try to be somewhere else or slavishly imitate others”. As someone interested in theatre I found this a doubtful proposition. However it is modified later by their comment that “We are only convinced when actors use a truthful part of themselves to portray a character”.
I was interested to read this book because I am interested in theatre. However, not all people have such an interest, nor is everyone necessarily going to be persuaded by techniques drawn from the theatre. A weakness of the book is that it does not address this issue. Nor does it refer to any learning theory or model. So for example they claim that drama‐based training is more effective than outdoor training because it does not have the same re‐entry problems. No evidence is quoted to support the claim. So like many articles and the occasional book on particular methods for the development of managers, we are offered the chance to learn from the enthusiasm of the authors, but we are given no factual basis on which to choose to use this method rather than others.