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Communications

US consultant brings physicality to German boardrooms

New York native Daniel Ludevig melds techniques from ballroom dance and management theory. He aims to help German multinational corporations communicate more effectively for a better business performance.

Daniel Ludevig, 30, is an American consultant who has lived in Berlin for five years. He moved to the German capital with the goal of fulfilling his lifelong dream of living in Europe, leaving behind a job in architecture in New York. Though his first few months in Berlin saw him exploring how various creative methods could be of aid to the business world, it was during an extended stay in Morocco that he discovered the method he now uses in his consulting practice.

"Morocco played an important role," Ludevig explained. "I opened a hotel for dance and yoga retreats in Sidi Kaouki. Several of my guests told me that the way I was teaching dance would also be a great way to teach business leaders to improve their communication patterns."

Body language - a 'powerful tool'

Ludevig agreed, and began to peruse scholarship on the emerging field of applied arts in business. Though his current practice builds on some of that scholarship, his take on the discipline is unique: Ludevig - a professional dancer - combines the collaborative process that dancers' use in creating a routine, and applies that to the corporate setting.

Daniel Ludevig

Daniel Ludevig has founded MOVE Leadership to offer consulting using movement, creativity and the arts to facilitate deep dialogue in business communication

"But it's larger than dancing, of course," Ludevig said. "Dancing is just one of a variety of creative tools that I realized we could use to bring consciousness and awareness to the way that people work."

His observation was that the creative thinking process that he had seen in the arts was rarely used in corporate settings - and he wanted his consulting work to fill this gap in the market.

"My thinking is that inspiration from the arts and 'embodiment' - using the body - is a hugely powerful tool in getting people to interact better within corporations," Ludevig said.

Ludevig helps corporations create "consciousness and awareness" by helping employees companywide understand how workplace behavior impacts themselves and the people around them.

"That's actually the whole point of this type of work," Ludevig said. "We want to help people look at things in various perspectives. We want to help people be conscious of the space between stimulus and emotion so that they can have a choice in how they react to things and can make better decisions."

Ludevig says a critical part of his consulting method entails teaching clients to be aware of information that is coming from the heart and the body.

"Much of corporate culture focuses on mind intelligence," Ludevig explained. "And that's fine for a lot of the work we do. The question is what additional intelligence and information can we receive if we tap into other more embodied sources?"

Breaking hierarchy

So what does a consulting session with Mr. Ludevig look like?

"We do a lot of prep work in advance with high-level executives," Ludevig said. "But I also involve the employees in the planning process, which breaks the hierarchy and already begins to establish new ways of communication."

Sessions are held either at companies' offices or in offsite locations. A typical session might see Ludevig assigning a task that aims to build camaraderie.

"With a major European banking institute," Ludevig said, "we gave employees the task of being an investigative reporter, and gave them ten minutes to ask each person in the room the question written on a card that we had given them."

The results were then presented back to the room in a short theater skit.

"There's a point behind starting like this," Ludevig said, "It changes the expectations and participation from employees that you usually have in a workshop. It's more engaging and energizing than the usual impersonal workshop activities."

dancers

Ludevig's courses Focus on movement, role-play and other artistic mediums to experience new understandings of communication, self-awareness, trust and openness

Ludevig also uses dance. In a recent project with a large Swedish power provider, he helped employees from around the world employ movement and dance as a common language.

"We pared off 150 employees, and instructed them to push their palms together and lead and follow their partners around the room," Ludevig said. "Each person realized quickly his or her natural or gut response to being led in a way that felt uncomfortable for them."

So do the managers push their employees harder? Ludevig says sometimes, yes.

"It's all set within the context of play and experimentation, but sometimes I have seen CEOs push their employees too hard in these activities," Ludevig explained. "But this makes for good learning opportunities. After the activity is over, we discuss this. The employee who was being pushed too hard has the space to say that this feeling that he had during the exercise is similar to how his daily workplace interactions with the CEOs feel. That's the whole point of this – it opens up a conversation that wouldn't otherwise rise to the surface."

Insufficient communication

Ludevig collaborates with Hendrik Backerra a cultural transformation consultant who used to work for mainline consultancy McKinsey Consulting.

Backerra says that traditional communications methods aren't sufficient to lead a company or a team, and that his and Ludevig's work is providing a new product in the consulting space.

"People aren't making decisions quickly enough using the current methods," Backerra noted. "In most companies, you see decisions within companies being formal and numbers driven, often neglecting important side factors. So, there's a huge frustration in the system from both sides."

Backerra says this frustration manifests itself in a wariness to make decisions. It also leads to finger pointing when things go wrong. Furthermore, Backerra says that companies are leading by financial control - i.e., paying salaries to employees - rather than by inspiration.

"My feeling is that if companies can lead by inspiration," Backerra noted, "Then they will have an easier time reaching their financial goals."

And Ludevig agrees.

"Put simply, our work lets people drop borders between one another and communicate more effectively."

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