Cameron Conaway is a critically acclaimed poet and writer. He’s also leads content marketing at Flow, a task management app for organizations. Conaway’s work has appeared in Newsweek, Harvard Business Review, and Stanford Social Innovation Review. He tweets as @CameronConaway.
What is your daily reading habit?
First thought: What a luxury it is to have a daily reading habit! I’ve recently returned from an investigative journalism trip to Myanmar, where I was able to bear witness to the challenges faced by the Muslim populations (including the Rohingya) who wake up each morning having to face a systemic discrimination that increasingly seeks to strip them of their basic human rights. So many are suffering there and all over the world (including here in Philadelphia) and yet I get to have a daily reading habit?
That’s a result of privilege, and it’s one reason why I take seriously the words I have access to. Though it’s more a habit of mind than a habit my schedule allows me to stick to, I try to dip each day into both literary and business readings.
As I finish reading a gorgeous manuscript from poet Michelle Reale at Arcadia University, for example, I’ll dig into a chapter of Originals by Wharton Professor Adam Grant. After I enjoy the stunning use of imagery from poet Christina Cook, I’ll read a piece from Susan Richardson’s Human At Work column.
When I was training for fights, I felt most prepared for an upcoming bout when part of my training involved reading poetry. Similarly, making a habit of fusing the literary and business worlds allows me to prime creative thinking even as I’m reading about the intricacies of business management and workplace culture.
How can poetry survive in the noise of today’s content landscape?
There has always been the question of “can poetry survive?” and yet it has and is and will. Poetry—with its focus on capturing the details of life we so often miss, and doing so in as concise a way as possible—is in some ways better equipped to cut through the noise than any other genre.
But here are two ways it can not only survive, but thrive:
1. The big poetry magazines, publishers, and awards committees must take more seriously their role as literary citizens. When the same poets grace the same magazine covers, sweep most of the major awards and grants, and consistently land the best publishing opportunities, it’s worth questioning what’s going on. I understand the gatekeeper’s need to focus on preservation and safety, but I also think they can do the genre a great disservice when excavation and discovery become afterthoughts. New poets are out there, banging on the doors. When I see publishers with massive influence continue to take the safe route even when it means they are illuminating mediocrity, it makes me feel concerned about the future of poetry and heartbroken for those elite poets who deserve to have their voice amplified.
2. Experimentation that bends toward immediacy. Rattle is perhaps at the forefront of this, and one of the best examples out there. Their pivot to featuring poems inspired by the news is exactly what the genre needs. When poets are fired up to write, and write something incredible that is inspired by recent events, it’s absurd to let six month pass before they can (maybe) see their poem published. This hurts the poet who engages with and finds material in the world around them, and the reader who, as a result of an archaic publishing system, now stumbles on work without the immediacy and relevancy it once had. Rattle is onto something, and I hope many others take their lead.
Have we over emphasized the importance of collaboration in the work place?
Of course this depends on the workplace, but collaborative overload is definitely pervasive. As I’ve written about at The Modern Team, I’m all for collaboration and have worked hard to pursue it when it felt best to do so. But I see many teams who have come to rely on it, who view it as some elixir that will solve all of their productivity problems. Collaboration should be embraced when doing so allows a team to tap into the best of their resources in order to do work far beyond what individuals can do alone. I think the problem arises when a workplace has sipped the elixir, and then worked to force collaboration into already productive areas of deep focus.
How would you define empathy to a CEO?
I’d tell them it’s the most overlooked leadership skill in the 21st century workplace. I’d tell them it’s what happens when you care as much about the holistic being of an employee as you do about the future of your company. But of course as a poet I’d rather show than tell.
I’d rather take them to a Philly Youth Poetry Movement event and let them watch the empathic leadership and mentoring of founder Greg Corbin. I’d bring them to an interfaith peace meeting so they could see the way founder Lance Laver listens to each attendee with the whole of his being. I’d show them the Ebola research laboratory of Ben Doranz, and ask them to watch how he interacts with his colleagues. I’d introduce them to Karin Copeland of the Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia so they can see true design thinking in action. And lastly, I’d ask them to join a workshop at The Peace Center so they can watch the grace with which Barbara Simmons facilitates difficult but important conversations.
I’d rather expose them to an empathy museum like that than tell them why empathy matters.
Truth is, the days of the unempathic CEO are quickly grinding to a halt. But rather than tell leaders this, I think it’s far better if we hand them a copy of What the Right Hand Knows by poet Tom Healy and then embark on a journey to show them what engaged empathy looks like in a variety of sectors.
This article was written by Kavi Guppta from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
Originally published on Mar 2, 2016 11:00 AM