The Power of Freshness

Greetings. If you would like to be totally inspired about the real power of music, and the real potential of life, work, and learning, then commit to spending fifty minutes listening to the BBC’s recent interview with Chinese pianist Lang Lang. But you will have to hurry because it is only up on their website for the next 26 days.

By way of background, Lang Lang was a child prodigy and is now one of the world’s foremost and most dynamic classical pianists. But he is also, at the age of 33, a renowned teacher, United Nations cultural ambassador, and remarkable voice for the power of learning across cultures, generations, and genres. And his thoughts about how we continue to stretch, grow, and stay fresh, focused on music but with much broader implications, are worth our time and attention.

In listening to the interview I was struck by his passion for a wide range of musical traditions, his sense of why so many young people never get past the early stages of learning (an instrument like piano), his thoughts on why being perfect is overrated, why it is important to “look for the notes between the notes,” and his belief that the greatest composers throughout history would probably delight in the knowledge that future generations were passionate about their music but also willing to try to reinterpret it. And the more I listened to his words and his playing, the more I felt the value of his insights and their broader application to life, business, and innovation.

Lang Lang, Piano / 18.02.2010 / Koelner Philharmonie

All of us and all of our organizations need to dare to try new things, figure out how to not become discouraged when the going gets tough, find joy in the work we do, and build on the ideas and brilliance of others.

Here is a fascinating excerpt on the power and necessity of keeping music (and whatever we work on) fresh and new…

“In music we need to always remind ourself why you play the piece over and over and over it again. You forget about the freshness. You really forget why we are loving music so much. You know. Because you repeated the same thing so much.

What I think we need to do is always play the music but try to imagine in a different eyes everyday. Different angle. And then when you play this piece you feel more like ‘Oh, it is quite fresh.’ I know the piece, but I don’t really know the piece. Today is my first time playing it. You always need to have that and if you start repeating the same thing you become, what you call, ‘autopilot.’ And that’s the worst part because then it’s not art anymore. It became kind of like ‘whatever.’ ‘Whatever’ in music is the danger. It’s the biggest danger.”

Think about how this might apply to your company and how you can avoid the danger of your work becoming ‘whatever.’

And if you would like to see and hear one way to avoid ‘whatever,’ check out Lang Lang’s collaboration with Metallica at the 56th Grammy Awards.

We win in business and in life when we approach the things that matter with different eyes and from different angles. And when we are open to learning from others and from different walks of life.


The Brilliance of the World Cup

Greetings.  In a few days the world's most remarkable sporting event will begin with the simple kick of a ball and the hopes and dreams of 32 nations that were skillful and fortunate enough to qualify for this year's World Cup.  And for a month, a large percentage of the planet's eyes, ears, and hearts will be glued to TV screens and computer monitors in homes, offices, restaurants, bars, community centers, social halls, public plazas, and anyplace else that people gather to cheer for their favorite teams and players.  They'll also watch at all hours of the day and night, depending on where they live, in the hopes of seeing great games, great plays, and especially great goals.  Goals announced with the unique passion that only soccer or football can bring–especially when screamed in delight by some of Latin America's finest announcers.  This is truly the world's sport, played and revered by more than 90 percent of it's inhabitants on dirt lots, city streets, rural pastures, perfectly manicured fields, and everywhere in between.

And amid all of the press, the hype, the predictions, and the building of stadiums and other preparations made for this historic event, it will essentially be a month of magic that is based on the simplest of games–made complicated only by trying to figure out exactly what it means to be "off sides."  Otherwise, the rules and the pitch (i.e., "field") are pretty basic and pretty clear.  So whether you call it football, futbol, futebol, fotboll, futbal, fodbold, le football or simply le foot, futboll, sakka, jalkapallo, soccer, or any other name, now is your chance to experience something special.  After four years of waiting the World Cup is back, making its first ever appearance on the African continent.

Even if you're not a soccer fan, it is well worth your while to spend some time watching the World Cup.  You might even find it to be a valuable activity at the office.  And while you're watching, try to figure out what makes this event so special and what insights you might gain to help make your company or organization more special too.  Besides the obvious lessons in teamwork and strategy, there's a lot to be learned about innovation, improvisation, and seizing opportunities.  And, you're also likely to discover new perspectives on leadership, loyalty, engagement, and poise under pressure.  So enjoy the experience…it's bound to be brilliant!

Fifa 2010

We win in business by captivating the hearts and minds of those we choose to serve.  By kindling their passion and dreams of greatness. Thirty days of magic are set to unfold.  Will you and the geniuses you work with be watching, cheering, and learning?


Don’t Take “YES” for an Answer

Greetings.  We work so hard to get to "YES."  Thinking.  Analyzing.  Discussing. Proposing.  Brainstorming.  Refining.  Compromising.  Tweaking.  Then finally agreeing to move forward in a new and better way.  But what if "YES" isn't good enough?  Or, more importantly, what if "YES" isn't the best that we can be?

The key is not to take "YES" for an answer.  Not that "YES" is bad.  After all, the commitment to get something important done is a step in the right direction. And it's certainly better that "NO" or "MAYBE."  But if it's not the best we have to give, then maybe "YES" should simply be a valued starting point for unlocking our real brilliance and creating innovation that matters.  So the next time you and the geniuses you work with think that you've figured out the best way to do something, take a fresh sheet of paper and try to figure out an even better way.  Not the perfect solution to a critical challenge, or the solution to a great opportunity that will take forever to implement.  But a solution that is better than the one you were satisfied to use.  This commitment to really push the envelope is what separates truly great companies and organizations from the pack.  And it demonstrates a powerful desire to deliver the best value possible in meeting the needs of the customers you serve. It's also a wonderful way to really engage people.

Yes-noWe prosper in business and in life by challenging ourselves to be even better than we imagined.  What if you and your colleagues tried just a bit harder to be remarkable?  Maybe a good solution has put you one simple step away from being really awesome!


Breaking Down Walls That Divide Us

Greetings.  Today marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  It was an event that unfolded before many of our eyes and changed, in an instant, not only the face of Europe but our connection to the dreams and aspirations of many people we didn't really know.  People who yearned to reunite with family, friends, and the rest of their country.  People who imagined that participation in a broader world would mean greater opportunities for self-expression.  

But in the absence of these epic moments in history, do we really understand and value people in other places?  People who have very different ideas, insights, and genius.  Or do they remain little more than faces in news stories, too far away to matter to our lives as people, organizations, and nations.  One might argue that many of our biggest challenges today are due to a lack of understanding of other people and other places, and the often misplaced beliefs that they desire to be just like us or are too different from us to warrant our interest or attention. The truth is at neither extreme, which actually creates far more intriguing and powerful opportunities to share, learn, and eventually collaborate.

So as you begin this week, spend some time thinking about someplace in the news that seems different and also fascinating.  Then commit to learning more about it and what makes it remarkable.  After all, there is something remarkable about every place on earth.  Then try to imagine how its brilliance could help you and your colleagues to be even more brilliant and successful.

Berlin Wall 

We win in business and in life by breaking down the walls that divide. What walls keep you from reaching out and discovering the genius in other people and other places?  And what will you be doing in the days and weeks ahead to remove them?