What A Violinist Can Teach Us About Business

Last night, we went to see David Garrett perform. If you don’t know who David is, you should check him out on YouTube. He is a master of the violin, and a pure delight to listen to and watch. Here are some of my favorite videos:

Mozart’s Turkish March https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJNvpvq7xxk

Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbHwYazHiLI

He’s a Pirate (from Pirates of the Caribbean) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGuBYvURSZw

On-stage, David did several things that relate to my philosophy of business. Trust me, I did not think about business during the concert – at all, in fact – but, in reflecting on what made the concert so enjoyable, the business takeaways were crystal clear:

Alignment has lots to do with overall performance: Throughout the concert – despite being on the road touring 300+ days out of the year with the same line-up – David went over to each musician and made eye contact. They were synchronizing and communicating with their gestures to make the performance the best it could be. This is how a business should operate: Keeping a finger on the pulse of each division and team to drive optimum alignment. Constant, interactive, “human” communication is at the crux of alignment success.

Content is king: David is a master violinist, an artist, a maestro. But he is also a master marketer, as evidenced by the diversity in the audience and his content. Where else can you hear artfully arranged and performed live music by ACDC, Chopin, Michael Jackson, Tchaikovsky, Coldplay, Mozart, Nirvana, Beethoven, Queen and Metallica? He showcased his breadth and depth while appealing to wide range of fans. He implements a thought-through, diverse and engaging content plan based on a common theme to engage and astonish his audience.

Everything old is new again: David performed several classics, but with an innovative twist through new arrangements and modern instrumentation. He had been thinking about how to arrange Hava Nagila for the past six years as a tribute to his manager, about how to create something new from a song that is solidly rooted in tradition. He *innovated* but did not re-invent the wheel. In fact, the majority of pieces performed in the concert were highly familiar, but presented in a fresh, innovative way, not the least of which was using a violin as the voice. When you think of innovation, do you consider current assets? You should, just like David Garrett.

(Of note, a review of the Forbes Reinventing America conference: “America’s Greatest Inventors Don’t Dream Up Novel Ideas — They Execute On Old Ones”
http://www.forbes.com/sites/danalexander/2014/03/28/americas-greatest-inventors-dont-dream-up-novel-ideas-they-execute-on-old-ones/?utm_campaign=forbestwittersf&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social)

I am a fan – not just of David Garrett, but of everything his amazing performance delivered. What other artists do a good job of alignment, content and innovation?

Chef Gusteau on Innovation

gusteauChef Gusteau

Chef and Author of “Anyone Can Cook”

In the Pixar and Disney film, Ratatouille,  the masterful chef, Rémy (who just happens to be an extraordinarily talented rat living in Paris) takes to heart Chef Gusteau’s famous motto, “Anyone can cook.” Taking some broad literary liberties that I hope Walt will graciously pardon, I propose: “Anyone can innovate.”

Everyone in your organization can be an innovator. It may be that not everyone *is* an innovator, but they *could* be. In fact, I’d contest that many people in your company are innovating each and every day, often without even knowing it. Like Ego, the insipid food critic in the movie, stated in his review of the rat’s gastronomic artistry, “Not everyone can become a great artist [innovator!]; but a great artist [innovator!] *can* come from *anywhere*.”

Every time they think about a problem and come up with a solution, they are taking the first steps toward innovation. Granted, solving problems does not equate to disruptive, ground-breaking, revenue-generating business ideas, but identifying and addressing issues – or seizing opportunities – happens daily in your business, at all levels and in all departments.

It sure happens in marketing and sales. Each and every day, your marketing and sales teams are breaking down barriers to drive adoption of your product or service. Sometimes their approach is methodical, often it requires creative thinking and communications. How is your organization capturing and acting on the insights garnered by sales and marketing? Because these insights can become the seeds of innovation for your business if you have the right process and perspective.

 

“Creativity is about thinking up new things.

Innovation is about doing new things.”

– Thomas Levitt

For example, if your marketing team does a survey to gauge pain points for your customers, with the right process and perspective, you may derive opportunities for product or business extensions to address their pains, and – voilà! – innovation potential. Like Terry Jones (founder and former CEO of Travelocity.com, Chairman of Kayak.com and CIO of Sabre, Inc.)  said at the Technology Association of Georgia Technology Summit today, innovation is about experimentation. “It’s like baseball: if you fail 70% of the time, you are actually quite good.”

So, innovation does not necessarily need to come from top-down, or from a dedicated innovation team – their role should be to nurture a culture of innovation, harvest the best ideas and create an environment and process to nurture them. Everyone can contribute to innovation! Keep your eyes and ears open for innovation opportunities through your business interactions with customers, prospects, influencers and competitors.  Marketing and sales are a great place to start.

“Short cuts make long delays.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

In recent conversations with CEOs, marketing executives and sales leaders of technology companies, one of the topics that often comes up is the ever-increasing insight that marketing automation, CRM and sales enablement solutions provide. Technology has certainly become an ally in opening up the conversation between sales, marketing and the C-suite in the past 26 years I have been in technology marketing and management.

With the increasing sophistication of software and Saas solutions, sales and marketing have become distinctly more measurable and, as a result, more accountable to each other – as it should be. However, technology should not replace the cadence and content of *real*, meaningful conversations between sales and marketing. The conversation provides the context; technology fuels the conversation.

In short: Technology and data enable the conversation between sales and marketing. They do not *replace* the conversation between sales and marketing.

I’ll be talking with more companies and executives over the coming weeks about what effective, powerful sales and marketing alignment looks like (hint: what technology solutions they use does not constitute the whole answer!); how sales and marketing collaborate and communicate with customers and internal/external constituents; processes for driving action from sales and marketing data, both internally and externally; and how their results might improve with enhanced alignment.

Which companies are doing a great job aligning sales and marketing to maximize revenues?