Marija Skobe-Pilley is musician in residence at The Corporate Theatre and is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Cambridge on the role of art-based learning in business organisations. Prior to receiving her MPhil, also from Cambridge, Marija completed a BA and MMus in Organ Performance and Music Education at the University of Zagreb Music Academy (2009) and was awarded an Erasmus exchange scholarhip at the Conservatorio di Musica in Bologna (2010).
Passionate about the role that the arts can play in improving organizational performance Marija is also a core member of ‘Age of Artist’—a not-for-profit consultancy, education provider, and research institute which focuses on the intersection between business and the arts.
Music has always had a significant role in Marija’s life, not only as an academic discipline but also as a hobby and passion. A singer in a gospel choir for many years, Marija is currently a church organist and a member of her local church worship ministry and additionally acts as a Youth Leader in her church community.
Marija is a wife, and mother to a baby girl. In the many roles she performs in her life the latter is currently her favourite.
What drives you as an individual and The Corporate Theatre faculty member?
I consider myself privileged for having had the opportunity to study music at the highest level and for having the chance to immerse and transform myself through music. Today I appreciate the power of the arts, not only in everyday life, but also in the life of a business: from building relationships and transforming experiences to inspiring leadership and growth. Bringing the arts into business is my unique purpose and the motif for my work.
How do you tap into your creativity?
By improvisation, creating an ambience for creativity and having an open mind. Whether it is playing an instrument, arranging a piece of music, teaching, cooking, writing, travelling by an alternative route, or singing a lullaby, I like to improvise. That instantly allows the opportunity to take an unknown route, to explore the undiscovered, to imagine new possibilities, and to have lots of fun along the way! That’s the way I am—I don’t like sticking to structures.
This doesn’t mean we should start the creative process from scratch but build on an existing structure whether its is a recipe, a music score or a business plan. By beginning with the known, but having the courage to improvise, we give ourselves the chance for new ideas to emerge in the process and to embrace them in the creation of a new entity.
Next, it is important to create an ambience that encourages us to explore different ideas and to allow creativity to emerge. Going for a walk or having time to think in the silence of the night works the best for me. Simply laying down in the stillness of the night, or wandering around in the outdoors, allows my brain to work quickly and come up with new ideas.
Finally, creativity allows for outcomes that are different to those we plan. Often allowing time for the process of creativity to occur brings great and unexpected rewards. That is why having an open mind is the prerequisite for embracing new, creative outcomes.
What’s in it for business?
Business today can be overly focused on short-term goals and metrics at the expense of long-term success and profit—something acutely revealed in the 2008 financial crisis. This is a huge obstacle to the development of the creative processes within both employees and the organisation. Allowing space for improvisation where exploration, trial & error, growth & discovery are cherished without sanctions frequently brings unexpected outcomes and results in profits that are many times higher than could ever previously been planned.
When do you feel most connected to people?
I am inspired by people’s stories. I simply enjoy listening when people share their stories with me. Stories can show how people are incredibly strong and vulnerable at the same time—something which I believe is the ground on which creativity can flourish.