Bringing a touch of theatre into your workplace…

Creative Shift’s Helga Henry is our guest blogger this week.  She writes about what businesses can learn from One Man, Two Guvnors currently running at the Hippodrome until Saturday…

Helga Henry

Helga Henry

The second UK tour of the National Theatre’s One Man, Two Guvnors hit the stage this week. The show is a joyous few hours of theatre where the audience laugh, cheer and clap at the hapless hero Francis Henshall as he ineptly juggles the demands of two separate employers who are, unbeknown to Francis, actually lovers in disguise fleeing the scene of a crime.

The business lessons in One Man, Two Guvnors for this month’s Box Seat Business School from Creative Shift, however, are not going to be about HR practices but rather the act of creating the show itself and what a massive business success it has been for the National Theatre. Following its initial run at the Lyttleton Theatre, the show transferred to London, and then was re-staged for an award-winning run on Broadway.

The work, as theatre scholars amongst you may know, is based on the structures characters and tropes of 17th century Italian drama commedia del’arte. The playwright Richard Bean has taken all the elements from Carlo Goldoni’s original play and cleverly updated them, repackaging them to provide a new performance that builds on the old, and making the play more palatable for a modern mainstream audience. Here are three lessons that we can learn in business from this wildly successful revival.

1. What old products or services do you have in stock, reports sitting on a hard drive, or information in a desk drawer that you can update and make relevant to your customers today?

Gavin Spokes as Francis Henshall

Gavin Spokes as Francis Henshall

One Man, Two Guvnors takes a relatively obscure Italian drama and places it in a new context. In fact trying to convey the original play in this way made the writer Richard Bean come up with some novel plot twists and aspects of the production that make it so popular in its new form. (For more information about this the learning pack from the National Theatre is very informative – click here to take a look). If you think about some of the challenges of updating a tired product or service and making it more relevant you may not end up reviving it and making it re-saleable, but you gain insights and improvements that you can apply to your current offer.

2.  How can I involve my customer more in the delivery of my products or services?

The flustered Henshall, at points in the play, seeks the help of audience members to lift luggage or look after things for him with hilarious results. While we are not advocating that customers should do your work for you, is there any way in which you can seek feedback on their opinion or meet their needs more closely by involving them earlier on in the process of creating or tailoring your goods and services?

3. Does your business send your customers away with a song in their heart and a spring in their step?

Music plays a huge role in One Man, Two Guvnors. The skiffle band which plays before the show and in the intermission, the various music-hall style “turns” where cast members sing and perform novelty instruments, and the hugely upbeat song at the end “Tomorrow Looks Good from Here” create a joyful atmosphere and ensure that everyone leaves the theatre in a good mood. Psychology studies have shown that we are most influenced by our first interaction with something (primacy) and our last (recency). Be honest – does your customer service deserve a standing ovation every time? Are your customers leaving your business with that same feel-good factor?

Repackaging, customer involvement and feel-good service have not just made this show a great night out, they have also created a massive business success for the National Theatre even in recessionary times – which has got to be something to sing about!

Taking inspiration from the world of the arts and applying lessons from it in order to improve business performance is what Creative Shift loves to do. If this article has inspired you to find out more please check out, look at our clients and case studies here or call me on 0121 689 1051.

One Man Two Guvnors runs until Saturday 31st May click here for further information.

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