Pilobolus – A Collaborative Nirvana

by Tom Casey, Managing Principal Discussion Partner Collaborative

The Below Blog Was First Published in April 2014.  The Pilobolus Dance Ensemble Continues To Enthrall Audiences As They Approach Their 50hh Year!-Given the need for Collaboration as a necessity vs. option DPC thought it was an opportune time to re-forward.


The term Pilobolus refers to a fungus whose spores propel with extraordinary speed, accuracy, and strength…..it is also a creative Dance company founded by Dartmouth College students in the 1970s!

The Dance Company has survived and prospered on a global scale for 45 years incorporating innovation, education, and creativity!

My wife and I attend many Dance company presentations from Ballet through Modern platforms.  Yet the recent performance of this troupe in Boston was unlike any we have ever seen.

The degree of collaborative precision and feats of strength were magnificent to behold.

The 6 dancers are incredibly strong, and flexible. Your emotions range from envious wondering how come you’re 3 times a month visit to the gym for 30 minutes does not have a similar outcome.  In addition, but certainly not least you sit in wonder questioning whether or not their skeletal frameworks are calcium or silly putty based.

Unusual for us, we decided to stay to participate in the cast post performance Q&A.

The conclusion we drew, and the derived lessons learned for commercial enterprises were three-fold.

  1. Each member of the company was encouraged to contribute to the choreography process regardless of tenure, or role….it is not a “leader led only” organization
  2. Each member of the company felt a degree of ownership due to this approach therefore raising their already high level of accountability for and proficiency in the performance
  3. The mutuality of respect and encouragement raises the level of creative input, excitement and innovation

This feedback from the Company was unambiguous in respect to the above creating a “community” or “family” feeling.

How they approach their craft has many lessons learned for commercial enterprise leaders! The scary truth based upon Discussion Partners advisory experience is for the most part global leaders are slow learners as it relateds to collaboration.

The five principles that DPC reinforces when speaking or facilitating on the topic of Collaboration were present in abundance during the performance.

  1. Clarity Regarding Roles
  2. Exhaustive Preparation
  3. Mutual Trust
  4. Creative Input Encouraged Regardless of Tenure
  5. Shared Mindset for Success Delineation

What the experience also underscored is that in collaborative processes, EGO IS THE ENEMY!!

If not why are we so challenged in the commercial sector to achieve collaboration beyond lip service and generous self-serving interpretations of the word?

What was most compelling in the Pilobolus experience is for Collaboration to be achieved their shared mindset was, egos must be minimized, engagement maximized, respect optimized, and mutual trust epitomized.

Among many of life’s mysteries, one that hopefully we can resolve soon, and Pilobolus has, is how to translate the abstract thinking as to how Collaboration can be achieved moving it to reality from aspiration.

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