Exquisite Pressure – getting excellent and creative work from your team

Clock on desk



I was completing a week-long intensive on presence in performance recently, where I recalled a term I had heard of – Exquisite Pressure. There is something lovely about saying Exquisite Pressure – and it is used in particular theatre approaches to create compositions that make up a creative theatre piece.

For the business world, a key to your work has a lot to do with time. You are not given the time to think or talk too much (because someone has set a time limit), and still wonderful work often emerges; what surfaces does not come from analysis or ideas, but comes from your impulses, dreams, or feelings.

All sorts of pressures affect your process with deadlines and event dates looming – and these pressures are rarely freeing or constructive.

Exquisite Pressure comes from laying out an environment where forces lean on the participants in a way that enables more, not less, creativity. Exquisite Pressure comes from an attitude of necessity and respect for the people with whom you are working, the amount of time you have, for the space you work in, for what you are doing with all of these.

When you create an assignment using Exquisite Pressure, don’t spend time sitting, discussing or planning – to try to come up with ideas. Instead, get up and work on your feet.

What are the conditions needed to create Exquisite Pressure for your team?  Give them just enough time in the assignment to create something they can own and repeat. (so it isn’t improvisation or an accident) – But, not so much time that they can stop to think or judge even for an instant.

Exquisite Pressure is also created by giving just the right amount of ingredients for the assignment (not too few, not too many), putting the proper number of people in each group, and determining the complexity of the assignment. There can be levels of difficulty with which you begin and to which you graduate. In all cases, the challenge needs to be great enough, the stakes high enough, for the group to enter into a state of spontaneous play.

This is a great way to promote higher levels of creativity in finding the solutions you seek to better your business. Try this with your team.  Practice this in an offsite or a team meeting.

Managing creativity is the role of every leader. Exquisite Pressure is a way to promote creativity in finding solutions from your teams.

Next time there is a project – gather the team, lay out the ingredients, set the time and say, “Ready, Set, Go!”  Placing Exquisite Pressure in this endeavor can reap incredible results.

– adapted from Anne Bogart’s The Viewpoints Book, Introducing Composition.

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