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Char March is a published playwright and poet, currently writer-in-residence for Hull University Business School in the UK. As part of this project, she is helping masters and MBA students and faculty to tap into their creativity to become first-class managers and leaders.
Ms March grew up in Scotland and studied environmental sciences at the University of East Anglia. She enjoys walking in the Yorkshire Pennines, where she now lives and has just had two collections of writing published: The Thousand Natural Shocks and The Cloud Appreciation Society’s Day Out.
Char March will be available to answer your questions in a live web chat on Thursday, 24th November, 2011 between 13.00-14.00 GMT. Post your questions now to firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be answered on the day.
1. Who are your business heroes?
Anita Roddick – I love her quote: “If you think one person can’t change the world, you’ve never slept with a mosquito.” She was feisty, into good design, ethical and yet still very profit-motivated.
2. When did you know you wanted to teach?
Ha! My dad was a lecturer, my mum was a teacher, and they both went on and on at me that I’d be a great teacher. So I avoided it like the plague, but actually I love tutoring and inspiring writers (and people who’ve never written) and running workshops that really light people up. I also find it incredibly moving to help people find their own voice eg dementia patients, bereaved families, people whose creativity has been squashed by the education system, by culture…
3. What would you do if you were dean for the day?
Kick out the daft way that academics write and make them all write clearly and creatively to really engage a wider public in what they are doing. If they can’t make what they are doing interesting, then why on earth are they spending their lives doing it? Academic writing has become a straitjacket that is all about excluding people (and ideas) rather than including them. Students find writing academic essays boring and highly restrictive – as one said to me this week: “It’s like cutting my tongue out.” Why, in higher education, do all students have to conform to a rigidly-defined norm?
4. What is the best advice given to you by a teacher?
The most useful, and pithy bit of advice I’ve picked up along the way is a Japanese proverb: “Don’t study an art, practise it.” A lot of academia is about repeatedly checking that it is still raining (and going into increasingly meaningless measurements of the rain and its qualities) rather than saying: “Right, it’s raining, how can we carry on despite that, or even, because of that?”
5. What advice would you give to women in business?
Just do it! But do it in a better way than men – don’t just ape their methods and systems.
6. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?
I quite like working with men, they are interesting creatures, and often more straightforward than women. But they are much more unconscious too, because men have always ruled the world, so they take it for granted that they are superior. I therefore have a tendency to put them right.
7. What is the strangest thing you have ever done when teaching?
I’m always doing strange things while I am teaching. For instance, I’ve just had business school students running around outside picking up leaves, then using them as metaphors to tell stories about their different voices; I got a blind elderly resident of a care home to fly a kite from inside a minibus because she was too unsteady to get out with her zimmer; and I got business school communications staff to re-design their main brochure as if it were aimed at four-year-olds.
8. What is the last book you read?
The Other Hand by Chris Cleave. He writes brilliantly from a woman’s perspective and this is an amazingly insightful look at what our immigration policies mean at a human level.
9. Where would be your favourite place to teach?
Anywhere they have never had a creative writer before. It’s an amazing opportunity to work at HUBS, especially with such a supportive deputy dean, Barbara Allen – she really understands that creativity is the key to business performance, and that there is no way the students, staff or the school can carry on doing what they’ve always done, and for it to still work, in the current chaos of markets, the massive rise in student fees, and the new border controls.
10. How do you deal with pressure?
With adrenaline, and later with several cups of lemon and ginger tea and plenty of very dark chocolate.
Compiled by Charlotte Clarke