Theatre training programs at elite B-schools like FORE School of Management are giving young managers the edge over competition
William Shakespeare, in his play As You Like It, made a melancholy Jacques famously remark, "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players". 400 years have passed since, and this line has lost none of its truth, especially in the corporate world. If you can measure your pauses, know when to tilt your head thoughtfully to a side, when to drop your jaw or bring a sparkle into your eye; if you can synchronise the snap of your fingers with the change of a PowerPoint slide, then you are the Don of the board room, the negotiator that everybody wants on their side; you are the Marketeer with the Midas' touch… and the corporate world is at your feet!
In India, of late, theatre has garnered the proportions of a serious career. However, its application in the workplace has been restricted mostly to the courtrooms and Parliament. But of late, how critical a role drama can play in boardrooms is being ubiquitously recognised in the corporate world. Walter Issacson has, in great detail, explained in his biography, titled Jobs, the hours and days of practice that the mercurial Steve Jobs would put in to get the Apple product launches absolutely spot-on. Understandable, elite business schools across the globe are now allocating credits to theatre-based training.
"Even from the teacher's perspective, drama and role-play is a certain way of garnering student attention," says Prof. Reeta Raina, initiator of the EBCTT (Effective Business Communication Through Theatre Techniques) at FORE School of Management. FORE School of Management is amongst the handful of elite B-schools in India that have instituted a credited elective in theatre training. The course is designed jointly with people closely associated with the National School of Drama (NSD). "Globally, research indicates that hands-on, interactive or experiential learning is far more powerful than a lecture," Prof. Raina explains. "Further, nearly all college going students are on their laptops, smart phones, or other computing devices constantly, resulting in reduced attention span especially in the classroom, since they have the feeling that they can access all kind of information at the press of a button. Theatre works wonderfully to achieve the course objectives."
Launched at FORE School of Management in 2012, EBCTT is a 1-credit point elective, and allocates weightage to Monologue, Script Writing, Skit, End of Term Exam, and Learning Diary. EBCTT pedagogy consists of Individual role-plays, image theatre, body language, forum theatre, improvisation, theatre games and theatre. The course has, so far, received an unexpectedly high response. 111 students enrolled for this course in its very first year of introduction, and 132 participants are enrolled in the current year.
"Any good B-school student worth his or her salt, knows WHAT to speak in the Group Discussions or Personal Interview; what is missing most of the time is HOW to say it," recalls Arpit Tandon from the 2011-13 batch of FORE School of Management. Arpit is currently Relationship Manager, IndusInd Bank "I recall, during the Placement season, GD's became very easy for almost all of us who had taken EBCTT as an elective" Arpit continues. "When you have studied and practiced theatre for sometime, you know subconsciously how and when to enter an argument. You suddenly raise your voice to just the appropriate volume and force. We were taught how gestures should be used effectively to emphasize and support our point of views and how impactful they can be in the eyes of recruiters. The elective was a major enabler during our placements. It is the best thing at FORE School of Management."
Theatre involves dynamic contact between people from both genders in close-set spaces. This is great for getting rid of gender-based inhibitions that crop up in workplaces, which, in turn, leads to broadminded and evolved managers.
"Honestly, the Theater elective was a big stress buster for me," says Shamik Das, Consultant, Deloitte - a batchmate of Arpit's - who also had Theatre as an elective at FORE School of Management. "It was one of those rare courses in the jam packed MBA schedule, where you can leave behind your worries about assignments and grades and actually enjoy the learning process. As a professional, my theatre training is absolutely critical when it comes to communications. There are 100 ways of saying a thing. Its how the other person perceives that makes the difference. Theater techniques taught us how to work cohesively in a group. To put up a good show every actor's role is important and should complement the other actors. It is exactly how things are in the corporate world."
EBCTT is only in its 2nd year, and at an "experimental level" as some might say. Yet its unequalled popularity at FORE School of Management, has already set the management looking at it as a mandatory part of the FORE curriculum. If this does happen, classrooms will no longer remain classrooms. There will be no chairs, no tables. Just inquisitive, dynamic youngsters, with the entire floor to them, speaking their mind and coming out of the classroom induced shell.