Tag Archives: mainstream

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.