I learned something from art today

In the gym this morning, I watched Silvia Beck’s documentary “Michael Nyman – Composer in Progress“. This fascinating portrait not only distracted me from the fact that I was exhausting myself in monotonous exercise, but thrilled me so much that I jotted down some notes for this blog entry right after my workout. The documentary made me think about art and movies – and how they connect with the work and passion I put into Social Business (aka Enterprise 2.0).

Michal Nyman is a multifaceted artist: composer, conductor, pianist, author, music theorist, photographer and film maker. His name may not sound familiar, but probably some of his music does. He composed the compelling soundtrack for Oscar-winning masterpiece “The Piano” (the album became a bestseller in its own right) and for several films directed by Peter Greenaway (inlcuding Prospero’s Books which I like a lot).

I was very surprised to learn that Nyman wrote the music for “The Piano” without watching a single scene from the film. “I do not want to decorate a movie, but add something that could stand for its own”, says the composer . This view is supported by director Volker Schlöndorff who recounts that Nyman’s music for “The Ogre” makes some hidden aspects of the movie’s story perceivable (e. g. the main character’s hubris or the hidden dissent in the castle). Schlöndorff adds: “Michael Nyman is a great composer for a director, maybe not for the producer”.

So how does this connect to Social Business? In my job, I strive to conduct a mass movement, but I also need to cater for the director and the producer. A lot of blog posts and publications I recently saw on Social Business were geared towards the producers – the guys who provide the funding for our activities and want to see a solid return on investment. And don’t get me wrong: Social Business must deliver business value. However, as “raison d’être”, contributing to a company’s financial performance would not be enough.

Think of the movies: They are financed because the producers hope to make a profit. But they are made because the director, the screenwriter, the actors, the composer, etc. want to create something that is connected to an idea larger than itself and that touches people’s heart and soul. This may not be true for every movie you have ever watched, but certainly for those that you feel passionate about.

A few years ago, my husband and I met Glenn Cotter. He is a digital artist and has contributed visual effects to numerous movies – many of them blockbusters like “The last Samurai” or “The Avengers”. When we asked him about his work, he described how he made scenes shot in contemporary locations turn into something that looks like decades or centuries ago (at least that’s what he did in 2003). We could feel that this complex artwork is a labor of love, and that for him it’s not primarily about the economic performance of a movie, but more about the idea and the beauty of the piece of art he helps to create. His filmography shows that this approach does not keep the movies from becoming very successful.

When I think of the people I know who work as Social Business evangelists – we are all striving for creating business success, but what really drives us is the passion to create something. In our case, it’s not a movie, but a better way of communicating and collaborating. And those colleagues who become Social Business pioneers in our companies are usually not the number-crunchers, but the playful free spirits who understand the beauty of the concept.

How can we move Social Business to mainstream without catering to the producers only? I believe that a singular focus on value creation would result in a utilitarian approach that might convince people’s minds, but will not win their hearts and or touch their souls. And all three are necessary to make Social Business a sustainable success.

Therefore I think we need a balanced approach. We need to cater for the producers (who want to have an ROI, now), for the directors (who see the big picture of the company’s future), and for a broad and diverse audience.  The artists behind inspiring movies can show us  how to achieve this balance: We need to combine extraordinary skills, a sound understanding of value drivers, a passion for creating, an imagination that sees the future beauty in what’s just emerging, and the firm belief that we are doing the right thing at the right time.


7 responses to “I learned something from art today

  1. Thanks for your kind words, Samuel, and for the wise comment on G+. I think the link is https://plus.google.com/109479022314471643787/posts/ZKxYJZwDLCb

  2. Great post, Cordelia, thanks for pinging me on G+, I would have missed it otherwise.
    The comparison with moviemaking is really interesting, not only because it highlights the necessary passion and imagination needed to help building business differently, but also because it strikes a painful nerve… Having worked with JJ Beineix in the past, I was able to witness how the movie circles work. The director is a chef d’orchestre, he is the one who deals with the production’s business imperatives while gathering and inspiring a team of individuals around him.
    A movie is both a creative project and a company by itself, and only this dual nature allows the magic to -sometimes- happen. On the business side, delivering value is all about instilling trust in the middle of big money relationships, and this trust only blooms on behalf of the promise made by the cohesion of the creative project.
    Yes, we need to achieve the balance. But this would only occur if the director is able to bridge ROI with passion, and to align creativity with its own vision.
    We need to really understand value drivers, but translating the value of social business into positive cells in a spreadsheet might not be ours to do.
    We don’t miss sponsors, we miss directors, and this is a much more perilous role to endorse…

  3. I read it with interest and loved too. I do fully adhere to this vision. While reading I was like asking myself what is the difference between Steve Jobs and the COO of Nokia. It is that invisible world that you cannot catch in numbers and ROIs that makes the difference. Money has always been an orientation and a control but not the source.

    Thank you for sharing, Cordelia.

  4. thanks Cordelia for sharing this great comparison – I also agree, it all comes down to people having visionary thinking and passion to go for it despite all hurdles.
    Specially with Social Media it’s not so much a question on “if” people can do it, but giving them good reasons (and a vision) why they should do it and than guide em “how to behave” there … so they will feel something like “secure” … so let’s got find and motivate our actors …

  5. Thanks for your thoughtful post, Cordelia. I was going to reply earlier but realized I had to do some more thinking, as I felt I disagreed without knowing why and with what exactly. And then I had to do some more thinking why I had to think about it more. Before I come across like a grumpy old nitpick let me start off by saying that you hit the nail on the head with touching people’s hearts and souls.

    Where I’m uneasy is this: It’s in our human nature as story-tellers to look for metaphors and symbols to illustrate our social story, to infuse our business with that little extra of creativity and possibly with an air of artistic vision. These are strong narratives but at the time being I am not entirely sure they fit when in fact we are just very passionate about what we are doing and hope to inspire others to feel the same.

    But then again, there’s more to it, isn’t there? As Thierry pointed out a movie is a creative project and a company by itself. If that is the case then the director is the role to inspire the crew and to instill trust in everybody’s creative abilities (composer, writer, dp, actors, production designers etc.). And if we look into what is needed to get a movie enterprise off the ground, all the non-creative, non-artistic back-office jobs that need to get done, this trust is reaching out far beyond the creative vision.

    Maybe that’s not only a good but a better thing. Inspiration and passion are what I believe to be the keywords in your post. We are not creating works of art, we are doing something less abstract and far more helpful: we’re helping people connect.

    Perhaps what threw me off is that I feel we’re doing something more essential to any enterprise, something like rewiring the nervous system.

    I’m also not sure if mainstream is what we should be aiming for. I rather like to pretend we’re working towards a new way of living where business without ‘social’ will be inconceivable. But that’s another story.

    Don’t get me wrong: I know a lot of what I’m bringing up doesn’t counter anything what you’re saying. Perhaps it’s not even connected. It’s just what went through my mind when I read your post, what I stumbled upon when I thought the movie crew story through. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  6. Wow, I am really thrilled that my blog post seems to have reproduced the effect that the portrait of Michael Nyman had on me. While the documentary originally made me reflect about the role of beauty and creativity in my work, and about finding the right balance between what drives me and what drives others, the resulting blog post has inspired people I highly esteem to their own trains of thought.

    Seems as if we – striving for the same aim, and each bringing along our own beliefs, experiences and views of life – have collaboratively created a multifaceted mini-essay. I know that’s what blogs should be about, but you don’t see it happen everywhere in the blogosphere. Makes me deeply grateful.

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