Where Management & Slam Poetry Collide

Miha Pogačnik, courtesy photo

Miha Pogačnik. Courtesy photo

Professors, instructors, and administrators in global business education will gather in Slovenia on Thursday (Sept. 1) to explore new ways to teach management.

They also will participate in a poetry slam competition.

The eighth biennial Art of Management & Organization (AOMO) Conference, hosted at the IEDC-Bled School of Management, will welcome about 150 leaders in a relatively new field that seeks to understand organization and management through exploration of music, poetry, sculpture, and other forms of artistic expression.

They won’t be there to just talk. Organizers have integrated artistic performances into the conference as well — and not just the slam poetry contest, which is open to all AOMO participants. Among other treats, Steve Taylor, a professor of leadership and creativity at the WPI Foisie School of Business, will debut his play “The Age of Loneliness,” in which a young playwright struggles with the aftermath of success.

But perhaps the act that draws the most excitement will be an opening-night musical performance by Miha Pogačnik, a Slovenian violinist turned leadership consultant, who is also an adjunct professor at IEDC-Bled.

“This is our tribe, people who are very active in the field of connecting the seemingly very different fields of art and economy,” Pogačnik says. “Usually the arts are the first thing to be axed, but they need to be rediscovered as an essential way for people to become independent-minded. I think we are talking about some kind of paradigm shift that is due to happen.”

His goal is to create an educational environment in which people see more than just a bunch of PowerPoint presentations. He hopes AOMO attendees will talk about the experience for years. The only way for veterans of management to be changed, he says, is for them to have a profound experience that is connected to the issues about which they care the most.


Miha Pogačnik, courtesy photo

Miha Pogačnik. Courtesy photo

In Pogačnik’s first life, he was a professional violinist, playing thousands of concerts around the world in the 1970s and ’80s. As much as he enjoyed his art and the applause he earned, it was not, he remembers, a very fulfilling life.

“I learned that moving as a performer in that sort of life is very rigid and very old,” he says. “You play concerts, and if you are very good and successful, you get applause. And after the concert, you feel that something should have changed, but it doesn’t. I felt very early on that something was missing. You cannot change the world. You are put into a straitjacket of tradition.”

In 1983, Pogačnik stepped out of tradition, and since then he has been finding new ways to inspire change in the world through art. He became a political and cultural activist, organizing festivals in crisis areas around the world. In 1992, he organized a Trans-Siberian train journey for artists, inviting those from both sides of the East-West divide to ride the train and bring innovative — and at the time, foreign — ideas to Eastern Europe.

“I proved in this second life that art can become the basis for meeting people. You meet truly human to human, and you can talk about the most essential issues,” Pogačnik says. “I called this the Resonance Platform. When you create this platform, then suddenly many new initiatives are born between people who would never have had a chance to meet otherwise.”

But as the ’90s went on, Pogačnik began to feel as though everything had fallen apart, and that capitalism was the only alternative left. “I felt that things were not right, so I turned 180 degrees, and went straight to corporations. I felt this was the moment to prove that art can sponsor business, not the other way around, because art is rich,” he says.

For the last 20 years he has worked as a leadership consultant. But he never left music behind. He teaches leadership through art at such institutions as Harvard, INSEAD, THNK Amsterdam, IESE Barcelona, CEIBS Shanghai, and the Berlin School of Creative Leadership, and at private companies like Microsoft and Nike.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.