Music and Leadership (part 8)

Coming across the latest TED-talk video of Itay Talgam was a good occasion to rekindle my thoughts on Music and Leadership. At the same time I am connecting his insights to something that is dear to my professional heart, i.e.: the distinction between teaching and learning.

In the language of Maestro Talgam this is called ’embracing gaps’. Have a look at the video below for a better understanding of what he means with that.

Embracing gaps

Musicians explain what is going on in their language, and managers explain what they are witnessing in their language. There is of course a huge gap between both languages and also the observations are sometimes totally different. But there is no attempt to close the gap.

As Itay Talgam puts it:

I didn’t presume to tell bankers what to do, and they didn’t presume to tell musicians what to do. But just listening to the others speaking about the same thing in their own language, makes you understand new things about what you thought was so familiar to you.

As a matter of fact we are ignorant of what others can learn from us and most of all from the things that are so familiar to us. As a consequence there is no way we can determine what people will learn from our encounter.

This brings about a very interesting perspective on teaching versus learning, summarized on the back of an envelope below:

If we want an experience to be a learning experience we should approach gaps differently and be appreciative of the fact that one ignorant person can learn something to another ignorant person – if only the focus is on embracing instead of closing the gap between the two worlds.

Music as a learning vehicle

Earlier in this series I have mentioned the mechanism of metaphor, i.e.: the expressivity of music carries the ability to serve as a sense-making language, a compelling story that communicates things that are beyond our reach. Music is a vehicle that allows us to discover things that we are unable of articulating and knowing in our own organizational context. Poets would refer to this as ‘the unmanifested’.

There is an honor in embracing gaps between the world of management and the world of music because it is through this appreciation that deep learning becomes possible. As the American contemporary spiritual teacher Ram Dass is often quoted:

We are all just walking each other home.

It is about walking together, without overtaking. This requires a different mindset than the teaching mindset we all too often default to. Itay Talgam adds that our purpose should be to become a “Keynote listener”; i.e.:

… to listen in such a way that helps other people to emancipate themselves as learners.

This is exactly what we see unfolding at the Pensato sessions when we bring management teams together with musicians of topnotch orchestras during their rehearsals. The mutual learning that unfolds between the world of management and that of musicians is so much deeper when we – in our role as a facilitator –  resist against the habit of preparing a knowledge transfer and instead to go in empty-handed and with full appreciation of the gaps.