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Dr.Dorothy Productions

Musicals as Problem-Solving Devices

Organizations have problems. Managers attempt to solve problems, often in collaboration with other managers and subordinates. Because we live in an unpredictable world with new challenges appearing often, sometimes with no easy way to work through, new methodologies are needed to help understand and resolve problems.

Conflicts in MusicalsMusicals are all about conflict and resolution. In fact, the typical musical has two competing groups, such as the Sharks and the Jets, or the Farmers and the Cowboys. What happens during the length of the musical is to explore the conflict and ultimately figure out a way for the two groups to resolve their issues. In other words, musical theater becomes a vehicle for resolving conflicts.

Problem solving musicalsThe purpose of this project is to help professionals in an organization identify and resolve a difficult, long-standing and current problem. In order to do this, groups will identify the problem, as well as the two competing groups or forces in the company. Because most people are anxious about engaging in musical activities and also afraid of public presentations, this exercise draws on collective strengths inherent in a sense of "shared incompetence," a not unfamiliar phenomenon, considering the instabilithy of the business world we now live in.

Problem solving musicalsWorking through the resolution of the conflict uses a similar approach as the Bostrom and Associates Outcome-Directed Thinking, where instead of asking a group to identify causes of the problem and possible solutions, groups are asked to imagine the ideal outcome. Such a methodology has proven to be very successful. Using the musical as a problem-solving device has been pilot tested in Barcelona, Spain, (where all the live shots shown here were taken) to great success. Participants reported stress during the process and concern they could complete the musical. But after they did finish and performed it for fellow professionals, they reported high levels of accomplishment, satisfaction and general well-being. It was clear that taking on a completely unfamiliar task forced them to use new skills, high levels of analysis as well as creativity, and also intense collaboration and problem-solving skills. Each group detailed high levels of achievement and reported intense learning, including a new way of solving problems.

Performing on stage

Problem solving

With the aid of detailed handouts and coaching from Dr. Dorothy Marcic (an experienced consultant who also has several successful musicals), each group writes a 10-minute musical, which features the two opposing groups, the conflict, and a desired future resolution. Each group is given recorded music for five one-minute songs and asked to write lyrics and dialogue that take the audience through the setup of the problem, the clash of the two groups, and the resolution. Also helping each group reach its optimum solution and performance is a director, producer, set designer, costume designer, lighting designer, and stage manager. These professionals are able to work with up to four groups.

Feedback on this program from the Barcelona workshop:

Problem solving musicals

"One of the goals of the workshops was to get into stage and perform in a musical, and we really achieved it. I never thought I would sing a solo. Jumping out from the comfort zone was unpleasant, but extremely rewarding. We all got a huge kick from feeling the surprise of our colleagues in the audience. The feedback from everybody afterwards was awesome and totally overwhelming. We alreally felt like Broadway Stars for a day. We showed everybody that we all have hidden potential, and we, a random group of people, became a team.

"It was awesome, great, fantastic, mind-blowing to be a Broadway star for full ten minutes, and that's the way I want to cherish and remember it."

Mika Korhonen
Values-Based Leader and Software Development Manager
Helsinki, Finland


"It was suite surprising for me how the workshop was able to give a whole new perspective on conflict resolution! I was able to analyze both sides of the same situation, and through music, feel more empathetic towards different perspectives. Also, working as a group, but with the introduction of the artistic component, created a wonderful group dynamic that set the environment for the beginning of great bonds of friendship."

Tina Sanai
EBBF, Portugal


"Numerous fears and doubs assailed our minds when we were left to do our assignment, with only your pieces of music, your guidance, and your faith in us. We thought: Did we understand what she expects from us? Has she realized we had none of the skills required? Is she really aware that what she is asking from us would be totally unrealistic to achieve in such a short time frame by professional artists, let alone by us? Are we really going to go on stage and become ridiculous? Well, despite all this we made it as a team and the result was ...glorious! The exercise was definitely a challenge, but it revealed and unlocked in us unexpected skills and talents, both individual and collective. Looking back at what happened, two words come to mind: magic and pride! Dear Dorothy, you are indeed an incredible and skillful "magician" and attending your workshop was definitely the highlight of my EBBF experience. THANK YOU!!!"

Brenda Abrar-Milani
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)


"I enjoyed performing in the musical thoroughly. Although I have sung on stage as part of a choir before, I have always been nervous about the idea of singing solo in front of an audience. But, to my surprise, I enjoyed singing alone on stage. It opened up a hidden talent that I didn't know I had, a new and different way of expressing myself.

As for the effect of your workshop and the performance on the event itself, the musical really enlivened the conference. Everyone was stunned to see their colleagues, some of whom had previously shown no performing talent, perform a musical with only a few days practice. It really enlivened the whole event and unlocked the creative spirit of the participants."

Jason Maude, CEO
Isabel Healthcare


"Team-building by writing a musical? Sounded fun, but really? In the business environment? But what an experience! We didn't know how to sing, to write music, to craft a script; but within two days we were performing our 10-minute musical to an audience of business executives who loved it!

Based on the idea that the business world is becoming increasingly complex and that we have 'shared incompetence' in the face of apparently unsolvable problems, Dorothy Marcic's course meets the challenge head-on by making participants use both their left and right brains through the arts to tackle apparently intractable issues. Far more than a mere team-building exercise, the experience mirrored the business world by giving us a short deadline, people we had never worked with before, tools we had never used, and demanded successful outcome measured by people who expected perfection. We quickly learned to draw on the (fairly minimal) talents of each other, to make decisions swiftly and surely, to trust each other, to innovate, to work quickly under pressure, to have courage, and to turn our 'stage fright' into positive energy. Probably the best training course I have ever been on!"

Wendi Momen
Secretary-General EBBF