The Painted Sky:The New Art of Corporate Leadership Training

Soni Bhattacharya,FounderIn this era of cut-throat competition, innovation is the new black - everyone wants to know about it and everyone wants to talk about it.Apparently, the word "innovation" has lost its boldness, impact and edge, because the people who call themselves innovators are not producing anything monumental or substantive. To bring back the real innovation into the boardrooms, what we need is a different approach towards creating leaders who are capable of combining left-brain logical analysis with right-brain intuitive creativity. One solution is Corporate Arts-Based Training, which is an interdisciplinary approach to learning, using the arts as a pathway to explore non-art topics such as leadership and management in business. Founded by Soni Bhattacharya, The Painted Sky is the pioneer to launch Art in Corporate Training & Development in Asia - an initiative that aims at offering companies uniquely differentiated programs to help foster employee creativity, innovation, team spirit and emotional intelligence, using various art forms and mediums.

"We have a lot of experience in the corporate world and have realized from own time in training rooms why most trainings fail. Hence, we wanted to create a leadership development organization that was different, not just in terms of content we develop and deliver, but also in terms of the impact we make," says Bhattacharya. While, the process of re-imagining and re-envisioning are driven by reflexive thinking and informed action, The Painted Sky
leverage many art forms to deliver training programs that meet diverse client objections and expected outcomes. However, introducing this creative concept in India for the first time was not an easy task for Bhattacharya and her team at The Painted Sky. "We joined the learning and development bandwagon late and considering that we did not have HR or training backgrounds, we were considered outsiders in those early days when we started. Very quickly we realized that if we were to stand out and get counted, we had to offer value through differentiation," says Bhattacharya.

The Painted Sky offers over 25 programs in the seven broad areas and all of which follow rigorous development processes and are often customized to meet client needs

Started with a handful of Arts-Based Leadership programs in 2011, The Painted Sky grew quickly in the corporate leadership training sector by utilizing the power of arts as deep, meaningful metaphors for life and work rather than using it for the sake of just the experience or the 'wow' factor. While, some of the Art-Based modules developed in the initial days worked as novel experiences for participants, Bhattacharya confesses that there were many programs, which did not work and appeared to be ridiculous on hindsight. She says, "Like Edison discovering 5000 things that did not work, we discovered at least 50 that also did not stand up to execution challenges." However, Bhattacharya, a serial entrepreneur who still says "yes" to possibilities, was confident about her ideas of merging principles of cinema with clay-modeling, applying Empathy Mapping in email writing, bringing in theatre to augment a Design Thinking process and many more. "If we did not say "yes" to trying, where would we be? We would not be using music in resolving conflicts or
painting to understand negotiations. Experimenting has been our focus and forte. And, we have been very fortunate - a lot of them have worked," says Bhattacharya with a confident smile.

Today, The Painted Sky offers over 25 programs in the seven broad areas including Creativity & innovation, High Impact communication, Stakeholder management, Thriving on Change, Diversity & Inclusion, Design Thinking and Leadership orientation -all of which follow rigorous development processes and are often customized to meet client needs. At The Painted Sky, the courses are from half to two days, and some Design Thinking "Live Projects" can run for up to 16 weeks. For participants, the programs offer interactive and fun platforms with paints and canvasses to allow for effective bonding, creative expression and vision alignment at the workplace. During the program, participants go through exciting activities that allow them to work together with different people, introspect,connect with their inner self and express their impressions through art.

"Our trainings have been run across 9 countries, from the U.S. to Italy, from Singapore to China, from Muscat to India,for over a hundred corporate clients. That is over 300 Art-Based workshops, for 1500+ participants,using Painting, Theatre and Music," claims Bhattacharya. In a short-span of five years since inception, The Painted Sky has worked with all kinds of people - from lawyers to musicians to runners to retired soldiers, and they apply themselves, their intelligence and imagination to bring trainings to life.The effectiveness of The Painted Sky programs is evident from their client list that includes corporate giants like TCS, Intel, Honeywell, Yahoo, Texas Instruments, Google, Lenovo, SAP and many more. "We want to become the best Arts-Based leadership development company by Applying Design Thinking and Psychology based tools to get there," concludes Bhattacharya.