10 things entrepreneurs can learn from musicians

I have written several posts now about ways entrepreneurs can learn from people and from the world around them. A few months ago I wrote about how much we can learn from kids (e.g. kids know how to entertain themselves) and last month I shared thoughts about what we can learn from dogs (e.g. dogs love to play). I have been looking around me and considering the things that influence my life as an entrepreneur, and also the things that inspire me to be more productive, learn more effectively, and run our business more effectively. I can’t say that I have a much time available for just listening to music, but I do love it and I am in constant awe of musicians and the language they speak, the mysterious symbols that they read, and the way they can work together to make individual strands contribute to a far greater whole. Orchestras are not the only example of this; great rock bands illustrate how a small group of people can collaborate effectively and contribute to a finished product that could not have been created without each individual’s input and cooperation.

1. Musicians cooperate.
As with all great teams, great musicians have to work together seamlessly and in cooperation. Choosing the proper key, playing at the same tempo, and selecting the proper instrumentation, pitch, and levels are all a given to any group of musicians. Entrepreneurs can learn a great deal about teamwork from this example and businesses must be able to work in much the same way; teams of people functioning in unison to achieve a goal or create a meaningful product or service.

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2. Musicians keep a beat.
Teams need drive and incentive to work effectively and entrepreneurs can use the example set by musicians to help their team be more effective. One way to apply the musical metaphor is to imagine the rhythm that drives a song and think of a project or effort as having a similar underlying rhythm  which moves it forward. Establish a beat to the team’s work, maintain that beat, and use it to accomplish the goal you;’ve set.

3. The orchestra follows the conductor.
In a large ensemble or even a small group there is one person who establishes and maintains the rhythm, drives the emphasis, and controls the tone of the piece being played. In a rock band this is often the drummer or other percussionist and in an orchestra it is the conductor. In business there also is a need for an effective leader who provides much the same function – driving the team, establishing the priorities, and clearly articulating goals, strategy, and tactics. A baton is optional.

4. Musicians play with joy (or something else).
Musicians are motivated by their innate love for the music itself and the joy of making it. Great entrepreneurs are much the same – driven by their dedication, motivated by the sheer fun of the work, and hooked on the sheer exhilaration of creating something unique.

5. Musicians listen to one another.
Musicians have to be able to hear what their bandmates are doing in order to adjust their own performance based on what they are hearing. Entrepreneurs can learn to pay greater attention to their team – listening, responding, and adjusting are all key elements of the collaborative process and strong teams constantly respond and adjust based on what other members are doing at any given time.

6. Musicians are weird.
While every rock band, in particular, has it’s own identity as a band, they are also made up of individuals with their own priorities, unique characteristics, prerogatives, and idiosyncrasies. Great bands celebrate each member’s individualism, and at same time identify as members of the group. Great entrepreneurs also must create an environment that allows people to flourish as individuals and at the same time maintain deep connections to the company and the team.

7. Musicians try different things.
The greatest band often overcome barriers that keep them from getting their music in front of an audience. Artists are constantly being rejected and the strongest among them respond by trying something different or simply just keeping at it. Many bands labor for years before landing that first recording contract or that breakthrough tour. Great entrepreneurs have to exhibit the same level of perseverance to get that business off the ground or to try another when the first one fails. There is a reason that we hear the term “serial” entrepreneur so often – the tenacity to keep at it is as much a part of a good entrepreneur as their ability t raise capital and manage projects.

8. Individual notes are just that.
In a complex piece of music (as in a complex venture) mall components add up to a greater whole. In music it is the individual notes and the individual players. In entrepreneurism it is the individual components of a business as well as the individual people involved. Great entrepreneurs recognize that their venture, like a great symphony, should be greater than the sum of its parts and that, on their own, those parts are just components of the whole.

9. Great music establishes an emotional connection.
When musicians are playing a song or piece they often have their eyes closed, trancelike, under the music’s spell. This emotional connection to their work infuses it with passion, energy, and significance. In the world of entrepreneurism and startups it should be the same for you and your team.  Without personal investment, commitment, and dedication te venture can not succeed; when a business breaks through everyone should be yelling with joy, when it fails we should all have tears streaming.

10. Musicians love to party.
Never overlook the importance of a party! Rock musicians are  famous (notorious) for their ability to cut loose and revel wildly and so too should entrepreneurs. Celebrate wins wherever they occur, take the team out for a drink, bring in a special meal, hire a magician to put on a private show! Always be ready to  whoop it up! Just don’t trash hotel rooms doing it.

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