What does dance have to do with business? I have learned that they share a focus on negotiating relationships in pursuit of successful performance.
Considering my background, I am not the typical candidate for an MBA programme. For the past 20 years, I have worked as a professional ballet, modern and contemporary dancer, choreographer, educator, and rehearsal director in a variety of international contexts. My experience in the realm of business and finance has been relatively minimal. Yet, through leading dancers, collaborating with artists, negotiating budgets, and interacting with audiences, I began to question whether there were more effective ways to manage people and projects.
My decision to study for the Executive MBA at Frankfurt School has had a meaningful impact on how I view my field. Moreover, the Executive MBA has equipped me with new skills to communicate and form alliances with professionals from a range of other industries and backgrounds. In this post, I share some highlights from my experience so far, and insights to encourage others to embrace lifelong learning.
In discussions with my former employer, it became clear that a full-time job at a German state theater was not easily compatible with the Executive MBA’s structure of weekend seminars. To pursue the programme, I exited my position, returning to freelance project work and teaching at the Frankfurt University for Music and Performing Arts. The shift from full-time to freelance work has afforded me valuable time for pre-readings, assignments, executive lectures, and group projects so integral to the MBA experience.
As a dance artist, I spend a lot of energy negotiating movement and bodies in relation to time and space. Factors like communication, quality, efficiency, and impact are of high importance. During the past six months of the programme, the most valuable experiences for me have been finding crossovers where class themes resonate with challenges that I deal with in my professional life. For example, discussing the Full Range Leadership Model in our General Management seminar with a diverse group of engaged professionals has allowed me to reflect upon past challenges and develop strategies for future success.
The Executive MBA experience offers multiple approaches for learning. Lecturers and professors, who elegantly shifted to virtual teaching, introduce models, theories and case studies that are accessible and engaging. They offer challenging assignments that guarantee our ability to apply learnings for practical use. The sharing between colleagues is also an exceptional asset of the programme, and a great source of fun.
Due to the pandemic, the exchange happens primarily online. The exchange with my colleagues encompasses many inspiring topics ranging from improving PowerPoint skills to investing in cryptocurrency and recommended reading lists to real-estate opportunities, to name a few. Furthermore, the Leadership Coaching and weekly meditation practice provided by the Executive MBA has helped me to self-reflect and acquire new tools to develop as a more capable and conscientious leader.
One theme that often comes up in the MBA, is the advent of new technology and its impact on leadership and management. The Digital Society course, which is part of the curriculum, afforded an opportunity for me to dive into new technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Motion Capture and Blockchain. This has encouraged me to consider how they might be integrated in the performing arts.
Learning at the cutting edge of new developments in technology is guaranteed through the Executive MBA international network of teachers, guests’ speakers, and alumni. This has helped me to establish contacts and acquire support to launch my own innovative and future-oriented projects at the interface of dance and technology. I am looking forward to the Applied Digital Transformation elective course coming up in July 2021.
A final aspect that makes the MBA experience uniquely valuable is the openness of the programme to input from the students. My colleagues have introduced their own professional networks to the programme in the form of invited guest talks and have directly influenced certain themes dealt with in the courses. Together with programme director Markus Maedler, we are developing formats for the program to integrate knowledge from the performing arts. Currently, I facilitate Executive Moves, a format of movement warm-ups to wake up and physically energize EMBA students before we sit down for the weekend seminars.
It’s true that I may not have the traditional background of an MBA student, however the valuable perspectives I have gained from the Executive MBA programme are genuine sources of inspiration. I am grateful for the exchange with my colleagues, the interaction with fantastic lecturers and guest speakers, and the opportunity to grow in new and unfamiliar directions. If you find yourself in a situation where you are questioning the business-as-usual mentality in your own field, perhaps it’s time to continue your lifelong learning journey with the Executive MBA at Frankfurt School.