What has rock ‘n roll ever done for business?

I have a confession to make. I don’t spend all my time thinking about IT and work. I know I can share this with readers of this blog because our stats suggest you would be sympathetic. On the weekends, I play guitar in a band and I really enjoy it – but what has that got to do with how I spend the rest of the week?

I feel slightly split between two different worlds – one very analytical and one more emotional. When I look up quotes on music I get things like: “It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gaiety to life and everything,” often attributed to Plato but more likely an unknown source.  Lofty stuff. I don’t find much like that talking about the IT world.

Believe it or not, a band can get lost during a song. Sometimes someone forgets a line or starts a chorus at the wrong moment, and you all have to keep the song going while sorting out how to resolve the situation – all at full rock ‘n roll volume (11) with an audience blissfully unaware that this is happening. Playing in a band has taught me about preparation, practice, teamwork, complex and unspoken communication, coping with failure, agility, compromise and much about overcoming fears and accepting my own limitations, as well as those of others.

I think you will agree these are good skills. It strikes me that there are other ways to develop useful skills apart from sitting in a class or watching web-based training while you catch-up on your email. With change being the new normal, acquiring new capabilities becomes a constant theme. I was reminded of this as I did some work recently (Digital disruption and the future of the automotive industry) on how new digitally delivered services could transform the automotive industry. One of the study’s conclusions was that automotive manufacturers needed new core competencies to help them adapt.

Digital disruption and the future of the automotive industry ibm.com/ibmcai/future-auto

The automotive industry has done very well for over 100 years, based mostly on engineering excellence. However, with the emergence of new challengers that are responding to changing customer demands, incumbents need to develop stronger capabilities in partnering, agile operations and co-creation. This reinforces my comments earlier about emotional and analytical worlds feeling very different. Developing new capabilities that come from the other world is much more than simply re-skilling. You can imagine how challenging it will be for individuals living through this transition. Maybe the skills and principles learned in a band have more applicability to business than I thought?

Quoting from Victor Hugo: “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” Maybe that is why I feel like I am flying when I listen to the guitar solo on Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb? That’s rock ‘n roll!


2 responses to What has rock ‘n roll ever done for business?

  1. paleophil says:

    As a musician in a band and a CMO in a software company, I can relate 200% to your post. I would add that in todays music world, technology is everywhere and it requires us guitar player to navigate between legacy systems (old tube amp) and modernity (I own a Fractal Audio Axe FX that gets firmware updates every 3 or 4 weeks, helps understand that even objects are now full of software and can evolve drastically even if they keep the same shape). Not to mention Moore’s law that gives me more creative tools in Garageband than what Pink Floyd had to record “Dark side of the moon”. The talent is not included though 🙂 Keep rockin’ 🙂


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