Recently I organised an amazing project to bring 6 perfect strangers together to Ozzy Osbourne’s former guitarist’s studio, with the sole ambition of honouring my friend Bill Nelson, leader of English pop art groups Be-Bop Deluxe and Red Noise. Bill has given me over 40 years of pleasure through his continuous creativity. United only by a shared purpose and passion for the music we set about recording three songs by Bill’s first group Be-Bop Deluxe, ending up in recording four in just under 6 hours. In just 22 hours, the band formed, stormed, normed, performed and reformed from perfect strangers to permanent flames.

This experience teaches us important transferable lessons about how to develop a high performance team in record time from an extremely unpromising start point. It is therefore of relevance in terms of developing start up teams and building collaboration between diverse people. Here are the transferable lessons:

Get Great Raw Materials

The band members were selected using the internet after I placed an online “advert” for band members on Facebook. There were no auditions, interviews or psychometric tests. Nobody knew each other before we met but It seemed that everyone intuitively understood the “job spec” and the level of capabilities required. All I did prior to meeting face to face was to arrange a brief meeting on Skype for an initial social chat. The people we ended up with were a motley crew, comprising a film producer, a pharmaceutical troubleshooter, an author, a local councillor, an odd job man – and myself – not quite the usual rock’n’roll credentials!!

Bill Nelson with one of his early heroes, Duane Eddy. 

Combine Passion with Purpose

We had agreed to attempt three songs on the day, possibly two if things went less well. I converged our song choices to three using a Delphi type process using a secret ballot on a list of songs chosen by the group. This meant there was a razor sharp focus to deliver these songs on the day and no divergence to try other songs. This is essential under limited time conditions. We also agreed the structures of each song through e-mails and sharing definitive template versions of the songs from YouTube. Each member then set about learning their parts individually – there were no joint practices and fairly little discussion prior to meeting in person.

Getting the Chemistry right

Given our complete lack of playing together, we sensibly agreed to meet at the studio the night before, with the ambition of running through the songs once or twice and having a few beers to develop the essential “psychological contract”. We needed just over an hour of physical practice before we retired to the pub to let our work incubate over night  Here are the four songs we produced on the day. We are planning a return project around the work of David Bowie and Prince at some point.

 

Rules of engagement

Without the use of a flip chart or holding hands in a circle, everyone in the band got the rules of engagement.  In hindsight, I think they were:

  1. Take no prisoners – We delegated authority over musical direction to Bernie Torme who simply told us when we had done enough etc.
  2. No pussyfooting – at various times we needed to substitute someone in the band to play a part. Unlike some bands, this was done without fuss or damaging egos.
  3. Playfulness – although we were under some time pressure, it was a true joy to play with the other band members and we all enjoyed various mistakes we made, supporting each other etc.

Start with the end in mind

Given the huge geographical separation of the band members (I estimate we travelled some 1500 miles between us to attend the recording session), the most important thing we did was to lock in the recording date at the beginning. Creativity and genius counts for nothing if you are not all in the same room at the same time!

“80 percent of success is showing up”

Woody Allen

We offer amazing experience events in a recording studio to transform the performance of your team, its collaboration style, all supported by sound theory and great facilitation, from Florida to Florence and beyond. Get in touch via The Academy of Rock for Business Excellence fused with Music.

About Peter Cook

Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. He offers keynotes, masterclasses coaching and mentoring on leadership, creativity, and innovation. Author and contributor to 11 books, acclaimed by Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham, Harvey Goldsmith and Tom Peters. Peter won a prize for his work from Sir Richard Branson and writes for Virgin.com. 18 years in science, 18 years teaching MBA’s, 18 + years running a business and all his life playing music.

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