Eggs, Architecture, Songwriting and teamwork

How are these seemingly different worlds all connected?  Culinary, designing buildings, creating great songs…working as an effective team mate or “co-idea generator?”  I’ve been toying with the idea for some time, and in browsing through an interior design magazine at the book store the other day (looking at kitchen design of course) it came to me.  Teamwork is such a cliche, but think of how a team in the fast-paced, high pressure kitchen of a 5-start restaurant work together on their products and services.  Think of the teamwork involved of building the brand new, World Trade Center on that tragically, historic spot. Think of the fact that the average number of writers to collaborate on a #1 Pop song today is 4.  That’s a lot of teamwork!  So cliche? I don’t know, but I like my eggs well done, scrambled with cheese…any kind of cheese.

1. Opportunity to be influenced by a different process

Each songwriter has their own natural songwriting process. Sometimes these processes work very well, but other times there is much room for improvement.  One writer can get stuck “inside their own head or vision too easily.” Co-writing is a great opportunity for you to improve upon your own process by seeing how another approaches the same song – what works and what doesn’t work – and to adopt some new writing techniques.  This same benefit exists in any organizational or workplace environment.  Being influenced by a new process and/or new ideas often leads to creation of new creative solutions.   Try it today, take your ad campaign concept, architectural design, new recipe for your food truck and throw them out to the team.  See if they improve upon your “masterpiece” through constructive collaboration.  Now, what if your work in progress seems stuck? Well…….

2. One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure

Songwriters who have been at their craft awhile have songs they either dislike or can’t finish that a songwriting partner may see something in, therefore turning a potentially “lost idea” into something unique and special.  You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.  Every voice at the table has something unique to offer, providing we truly have open forums.  Your “throw away song” could be a hit tomorrow, and your “lost idea/invention/service or product development project” could be the next i-phone or Post-it notes…IF you open up your doors and let someone else in to help shine the light on your creation, look underneath the hood and help you to turn coal into a diamond.  Maybe this process will help you adjust the way you work or view your own methods and…..

3. Open new doors to try new things and create new sounds

Just like your own process, every songwriter develops their own style and sound. Working with another songwriter can help you to see things in a different light, and to possibly try new things that you may not have otherwise even thought of, helping you to achieve a new, different sound. OR, it may teach you (if you are open to learning) a new way to achieve the desired result.  Hit song, new smart-phone app. Etc..etc…

4. Critiques are more effective

An important part of the songwriting process is to critique your work, to find out what may be helping the song to strive, or what may be holding it back from succeeding, and to tweak it’s structure for the better. Doing this yourself is important, but working with a co-writer offers you the opportunity to put a new set of eyes on the song and to actively and openly discuss all parts of the song. Again, this may lead to seeing things differently and help you to open new doors to tweak your song (or not tweak your song) for the better. So, if you’ve come this far, please remember, you stand to gain nothing at this part of the game by saying you’re open to critique, but not actually listening to feedback from the other truly with an open heart and ears.

5. It can be fun, helping your creativity to flow!

While some songwriters prefer to do it themselves because their songs may be deeply personal and/ or introspective, there is no doubt that a collaborative effort can be fun and exciting. Working with another offers the opportunity to piggy-back off each other’s excitement and energy which will show in the music.   The same can be said for grabbing a white-board, some markers and a designated time for brainstorming each day within the confines of your own field/business.  Or for that matter at home! What if while working together in the kitchen on a Sunday morning, you and your better half in this casual setting… brought up one “problem” and focused together on the solution.  What would that look like? Could you have fun with it?  Could the ebb and flow of the cooking and clearing process jog your creative juices? Come on, brewing the coffee, scrambling the eggs….seems perfect environment of “Getting things done” in a non-threatening setting to achieve one solution to at least “Try” for the week ahead right!

 

Okay, go make it happen.  Create one solution this week, improve on one idea or product/service, open your ears to the others around you.  You’ll be amazed at what happens.

The Sum of the Parts

It’s been too long since I’ve written you in this space, and for that I apologize. To be honest, since taking on the role of Director of Operations at Big Dog Ranch Rescue, I’ve been overwhelmed by the undertaking in many ways. 11 months into the process I feel I’m starting to get the hang of it, and the inklings of a work-life balance are creeping back into my existence.

Today I read Neil Gaiman’s ‘Make Good Art” speech in book form. It’s a cool concept/graphic design oriented gift book, recounting this well-known speech he made at a University graduation ceremony May 17th, 2012. The gist of the talk is that those who “make good art” make many mistakes, BIG mistakes, and a variety of mistakes…and that the best artists do this often. The concept resonates with me, but truthfully, as I sit here looking at the lake and the seabirds on this Sunday morning…I really latched on to something else, though it was not the author’s intended message.

This book was quite driven by layout. So much so as a matter of fact, that though the entire book was comprised of snippets from Neils’ speech, he and the graphic artist shared billing equally at books end.

What hit me in the face upon reading both what Gaiman had to say, and how he said it was this.

When a painter paints, it’s truly the blending of colors and shades, the contrast between light and dark, and the context of white space vs. occupied space that tell the story of the work. How well the painter accomplishes this teaming of elements, in turn decides how successful the work will be in making a dent in the fragmented impression-span of today’s viewer.

When a dancer dances alone, it’s a sequence of moves, highly choreographed, much practiced…that all work together in creating a seamless stream of movement that is the actual “routine” of a dancer. The story is made of up pieces. Similarly, if the routine involves multiple dancers, rather than a solo act, it’s the joint movements or actions of the collective, which becomes the overall “painting” of this dance.

One of the most prolific songwriting teams in history, husband and wife Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil are featured on Sunday Morning Live on CBS this morning. “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” and dozens of other landmark hits, were inked by this dynamic duo. Talk about a collaboration on multiple levels! Their combined talents, Cynthia for the words, and Barry for the music were largely responsible for creating the soundtrack of a generation. See where I’m going here? The sum of the parts is where it’s at.

Who can you team up with today to make progress, improve something, create your personal masterpiece, push one little corner of the world into better shape?

Is Your Workplace Environment Stunting Collaboration and Innovation?

 

Recently, our team participated in a songwriting/team-building program with a Fortune 500, Financial Services Company.  We were very excited to be working with a new group of driven, talented individuals.On this day, we were part of a full-days “technical” training.  We were the “Grand Finale”-Non-industry related part of the program.  We were there to shake things up, and help shift the thought processes of those in the room from their normal, linear thinking norms.

We were challenged to work in a room, where the layout was, well let’s say not ideal so as to encourage collaboration.  A primary goal with our programs!  Set up class-room style with long, thin rectangular tables.  All attendees were facing forward.  Nearly all had laptops in front of them, rather than the round tables we typically prefer.  So, what did we do?

Well, we “re-arranged the chairs on the Titantic!”  We shut down the lap-tops.  We asked those in attendance to move the tables around. Rather than row upon row of faces turned towards  “us” at the “front” of the room, we NOW had 4 “pods” or “Squares” of attendees facing each other.  Eye contact.  Everyone was now able to see lips moving when a colleague was speaking…contributing to the conversation.

 

NOW, we were set to work together in individual teams, and as a collective whole.  And everyone chipped in.  Beautiful.

 So, what can you do within the “walls” and WITH the walls of your organization to better promote innovation through collaboration? 

  •  Are there actual physical barriers which you as leadership can consider “bringing down?”
    •  Are there systemic barriers, or parameters that might be easier to change than you think?
      •  Conversely, are there systemic barriers or policies, which despite how difficult change may appear to be…STILL need to change? 
        • What can you do right now?  Within 3 months…6 months…12 months to better assure that all voices at the table have a say in creating and/or finding solutions?

        Let’s think about it….Then, let’s do something about it.