THE MUSIC AND ENTREPRISE METAPHORE
Franco Marzo - smart management Coaching & business development
What is it? Bringing different tunes together!
As a part of Human evolution, harmony is relatively recent , and the book “Istitutioni Harmoniche” by Italian composer and theorist Gioseffo Zarlino (1558) played a major role in its divulgation, explaining why most great composers of the 19th and 20th century made extensive use of Italian words in their work (i.e. adagio, lento, allegretto, vivace). Harmony, the sound of two or more notes heard simultaneously, follows a set of guiding principles and rules aimed at making these sounds pleasant to the human ear, monotone music and chaos being exactly the opposite. Being exposed to a single sound for a long time becomes tedious and at times could be compared to a form of torture. The same could be said of chaos, though in this case, harmonic elements are present and, therefore, harmony is potentially possible. Music teaches us that there is no harmony without diversity (monotony being the result) and that diversity without integration becomes chaos. Interestingly, in music, integrating sounds and instruments means using them whole. Each instrument has its own distinctive timbre. This is not a problem however, because as we have already seen (see article on page 70 of Pneurama 5/2015) rhythm with its common rules, facilitates this integration process.
Harmony works much in the same way within your business activity, the careful management of diversity: different professions, different goals, different services, different products, different customers. The issue of diversity, though, deserves a specific separate article. By age, gender and skills, young and old, men and women, educated and uneducated, we are all different. Therefore, search for and refine these differences within each category: suppliers, products, services, employees, customers! A famous pastry shop in Florence comes to mind, one that by day makes cappuccinos and croissants for students and pensioners alike, and at night turns the strobe lights on, pumps up the volume and serves cocktails to playboys and beautiful girls. The words diversity and fun (divertimento) share the same Latin root ( Divertere, or “turning in the other direction”). Diversity is fun.
Harmony infuses pleasure and positive energy.
But what role has harmony played in human evolution? Neuroscientists have discovered that complexity, when properly managed, is a source of pleasure. Through Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI) an increase in blood circulation was observed, in the brain’s pleasure centre (nucleus accumbens) following a growth in complexity. Such growth is not limitless though, every individual, in fact, has a complexity limit beyond which pleasure turns into annoyance (see picture). Have you ever heard twelve-tone music? It is absolutely harmonic, but so difficult and complex that it can become annoying. Of course, and this is the fun part, this limit is not fixed and unchangeable. Through training we can move that limit forward, going to the point of forming a “need for greater complexities” (now you know why at times we tend to complicate our lives!) But what does harmony have to do with business? The aim is the same, creating pleasure. Pleasure for the clients, business partners and stakeholders just to mention a few. The challenge, as we have already said, is keeping the pleasure level high knowing that if we overdo it, we run the risk of transforming pleasure into annoyance. Therefore, harmony is also knowing how to balance the different sounds, and when these become too difficult or complex it is necessary to know how to go back. In this case, pleasure will result from this process of simplification.
Harmony, on the other hand, is also obtained by integrating or linking the various parts or people involved. A group of individuals are transformed into an organization when they succeed in infusing energy both within the organization, as well as outside of it. An orchestra is one of the most vibrant models of such organizations. Personally, I consider it a “biologic organization”, a living and breathing system that creates Energy (a round of applause) and emotions through musicians and instruments right before the clientele, the audience. An orchestra is a clear example of an organization in which each part, from the trombone to the violin, the harp and triangle, all interact perfectly thanks to discipline and competence. Orchestra musicians are all professors and many play their instrument better than the conductor who directs them. This is an important factor also for businesses. If you want your company to grow, hire people who "play the instrument" better than you.
How to do it! Harmony and planning.
If harmony is the result of integrating different parts and the complexity thus produced gives pleasure, how can we manage such complexity? In music, two basic ingredient are needed:
In music, harmony doesn’t just come out of the blue, but out of a number of sounds that have something in common: a mathematical relationship between the wavelengths (1, 1/2 , 1/3, 1/4, 1/5). You could say that harmony is mathematics! Due to these relationships, strings vibrate and go into resonance, they are amplified and create energy. With humans, wavelengths are difficult to be measured, so we will try to explain this relationship with a mental exercise. Say you wake up from a long sleep, you see a ray of sunshine and think it's summer. You will spontaneously harmonize with whoever wears a short-sleeved shirt, a bathing suit and orders a cool drink. On the other hand, you will not harmonize with anyone wearing a winter jacket, snow boots and drinking hot soup. This harmony stems from a common "fundamental thought", it's summer! A company must have a basic idea (root) clearly stated, without ambiguity, by the owner of the business or the board of directors. The “fundamental thought” of a company relates to its strategy, future outlook and reference values. The broader and deeper the “thought” the better, because it can accommodate shorter but consistent wavelengths, creating chords, resonance and energy. Let’s consider two examples:
- a strategy that aims at becoming a market leader will create greater harmony compared to one centered around the profit-margin. The first will involve all the associates and coworkers in a long and challenging process, while the second relates only to a few beneficiaries
- nurturing the value of passion creates more harmony compared to productivity, since it involves everyone without limits in terms of time and types of activities, differently from productivity, which is closely linked to tasks, deadlines and rewards.
If you have never communicated through deep thoughts, try to look among the things you believe in the most. Careful, deep fundamental thought does not exclude other thoughts, but rather it includes them! In music deep notes travel further, bypassing houses, trees and mountains, while high-pitched sounds are short-lived, crashing on the first obstacle or barrier. Now you know why the long wave of a thunder travels further than the short wave of a lightning.
The second ingredient is planning, the precise definition of what everyone has to do at any given moment. To organize music a score was created, one of the most sophisticated and precise programming tools ever made (we will dedicate to it one of the next articles). Just think, thanks to a score, symphonies can be performed by dozens of musicians without even hearing the music before. Nowadays, with our i-phones, radios and record players this seems incredible, yet that was precisely the case until not long ago with Verdi or Beethoven. In business scores are called processes, sub-processes, production cycles and flow-charts. The “score” also allows a musician to quickly find his place in the orchestra knowing exactly what to do, how and when to do it without mistakes. This may all seem so cumbersome and slow, but if 2-3 jazz players can improvise, when the musicians are more and come from different backgrounds, only following a score will create efficiency, productivity and harmony.
Like it or not , hearing is one of our most acute and sensitive senses. Discordant notes are easily detected, and it doesn’t take much to spoil a performance and be left with an empty theater.