Translating the Creative Process with John Michael Schert


John Michael Schert (@jmschert) is a ballet dancer who studies and teaches the creative process.

John Michael is a classically trained ballet dancer, having performed with the American Ballet Theater, one of the most prestigious ballet companies in the world. He moved on to become a founding member at Cedar Lake Ballet, and for four years performed with Alonzo King LINES ballet.

In 2004 John Michael co-founded the Trey McIntyre Project and served as the company’s executive director and dancer for 9 years. In that time he built a nationally recognized and sustainable arts organization, which toured in Vietnam, China, the Philippines, South Korea, around the US, and which was recognized by publications like the New York Times and PBS. But what is to me even more impressive is the impact that Trey McIntire Project had on local communities, especially in their hometown of Boise, Idaho. The company paved the way for the impact an artistic endeavor can make within a community.

Since the fall of 2013 John Michael has stepped away from his performance career and become a visiting artist and social entrepreneur at the Chicago Booth School of Business where he mentors students and works with faculty to examine the creative process. Recently he has been speaking from stages and consulting around the world on the underutilization of artists and the creative process within business. We met because he was a keynote speaker at last year’s Design for Dance conference.

We cover a lot of ground in this interview, which runs two hours! Take a look through the show notes below and feel free to jump around throughout the interview. Enjoy!

Show Notes

4:20 Finding ballet
8:30 Competition
10:45 Balance of form and feeling
14:30 Inter critic
16:40 Self-acceptance
22:45 Fallacies about dance (also, see this interview with Sydney Skybetter)
29:20 September 11, 2001
36:50 Dance community translated into start-ups
39:00 Finding play at work
41:00 Nonverbal interaction and body language
45:15 Dr. Mehrabian
45:30 Putting nonverbal communication into the workplace
43:00 Putting someone at the table with creative process (presentation)
49:00 Live in the moment with presence
50:20 Emergent leadership
52:00 Doing research as an artist in social entrepreneurship
58:10 Transferring skills to a new domain
1:01:30 Collective unconscious and the cycle of creative process
1:03:15 The cycles in being an executive with beginner’s mind
1:07:00 Trey McIntyre Project
1:13:25 Creative process on individual, organizational, and domain levels
1:18:00 Small group affect great change
1:19:10 Institutional model hires people for the job
1:19:30 Assembling a team like a small contemporary dance company
1:31:00 Consent over consensus (Mike Arauz also discusses this)
1:32:00 Words that built the TMP brand
1:52:10 John Michael’s three careers
1:57:47 Tim Ferris podcast with Tara Brach
1:59:55 Presence
2:05:24 Hire the artists to fill the hole in the team

Further Reading

Ballet’s grace leads to new thinking at Chicago Booth business school –
Dance/USA — The national service organization for professional dance.
John Michael Schert | The University of Chicago Booth School of Business
The Big Question: Does your company need an artist? | The University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Global Exchange – John Michael Schert & Marcelo Gomes – YouTube
UNCSA – John Michael Schert becomes a Visiting Artist and Social Entrepreneur in Chicago

If you enjoyed this conversation, you’ll like my interview with dancer and technologist Sydney Skybetter:

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