Lessons from the Theater

It’s not like they were attacking her, it’s like they were degrading her because she was different. They felt like it was no big deal. I didn’t think the play would go there. They went way too far, and it was way too easy for them.   With all the turmoil going on in the play, I felt that the detective mediated everything. He wasn’t for one side or the other, but he treated everybody the same, because they were all hoodlums.

I loved the Spanish in the play, because I could understand all of it. We live in a world where we speak so many languages, and it’s good to be able to understand.

They fell in love, just like everyone else. Back then, it was a man and a woman, one Latina and one Anglo. Now we’re talking gay marriage. They were the innovators of unconventional marriage.

When Anita kept saying, “But we’re in America,” it reminded me of growing up here. My mom wanted to keep the Colombian traditions and I would say, “But Mom, we’re in America.” Back then, I wanted to do everything my American friends were doing. Now I understand where my mom was coming from.

Both the play and our sessions take planning, training, execution, and a lot of behind-the-scenes effort. The passion with which the actors act is similar to the passion that people in the Firm have around their work.

It hurt to watch Anita become small during the play. At first she was all about relishing her new life in America.  She saw America as big, and she wanted to Be BIG in it. And yet, by the end of the play, circumstances left her singing “stick to your own kind”—a very small idea.

When did you know that “the play” in question was West Side Story?

You might not have recognized it at first. If you’ve seen it, chances are that you view it in a certain way and believe it’s about certain themes. Some of the thoughts above probably startled you.

They startled me. That is why, for me, seeing West Side Story with our Troy office was—more than anything else—about a Four Corners Breakthrough.

Four Corners Breakthrough has become a foundational idea at KJCG. Named after the police procedure of interviewing witnesses from every street corner of an accident scene, this approach brings together people with a broad range of differences and perspectives to convey their knowledge and ideas. By sharing information across departments, shifts, functions, sites, levels in the organization, and other differences, organizations can gain a 360-degree view of every issue and situation, enabling more breakthroughs and better decisions.

We didn’t have to make any decisions about West Side Story. But as I spoke with four people who attended the performance at Proctors in Schenectady—Julie Bush, Kamen Miller, Lixa Santana, and Tanya Zgorzelski, four people with differences of color, gender, skills, life experience, even familiarity with West Side Story —the differences in their perspectives allowed me to see the play with fresh eyes. More than that, they enriched my understanding not only of West Side Story but of our Firm: the values we hold to, the work we do, the way we do it. As a result, I can better align my work with the work of the Firm.  

Imagine if the play were an issue in our organization, and we needed to resolve it. How much closer to a breakthrough would we be, having heard all these perspectives?

That is the essence of Four Corners Breakthrough.  It is one thing to write about. It is quite another to have it happen around you—and feel its transformative power firsthand.



Note: This post would not have been possible without the insights and contributions of four people at KJCG: Julie Bush, Kamen Miller, Lixa Santana, and Tanya Zgorzelski. Thank you, one and all, for adding your street corners—and making the experience of West Side Story richer.