Friday June 1 was the fortieth anniversary of the release of album number eight by one of the most memorable music bands of all times -- The Beatles. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was an amazing experiment.
Some called it art. The Philadelphia Inquirer Associate Editor John Timpane, one of my favorite writers and thinkers, shared his thoughts in an article for the Sunday paper. The album, he writes, has been dissected, glorified and blamed, called a con job, a turning point, a pot-fest, a triumph.
I had to listen to it several times at new stages of my life to fully form my experience of it. I'm with Timpane on many of his points (black bolded), which I will expand upon here.
Dealing with Emotions
The album was and remains 13 entertaining tracks spanning a wide diapason of emotions: devotion, grief, fright, irony. This is quite a range. If an actor can do that for us on screen, we fall in love with the character and the movie. Emotions cannot be helped; in fact they help us make sense of the world we experience around us. Organizations are made of people.
- I'm hearing more and more talk about spirituality in business. In my last round of interviews the topic was brought up more than once. Are companies the new communities? Can they compensate for what is missing in time and experience in people's lives?
- Maybe it can help us cope with grief. I have three examples of grief at work: (1) a long time ago one of my colleagues hung himself right after coming back from a long planned and awaited for honeymoon. He had left a note to his family, yet we were left without an explanation; (2) a few years back, one of our high performing teams was in a catastrophic car accident that claimed the life of the driver, and that of a recent hire after a prolonged coma, the paralysis of a foreign colleague, and the need for aggressive rehabilitation for one of the partners; (3) the general manager in my company's North America operations lost his life to colon cancer, 90-days from diagnosis to the final breath. How do you communicate those kinds of life changing experiences?
- We are frightened a lot, too. Maybe we fear we will not be able to make the next quarter, or grow the company to where the market experts it to be. I'm scared a lot, and that is good. I take many risks, some small, some bigger, because I love to learn and grow and experiment. This post is a risk; maybe nobody will care. What scares you?
- And irony, as in slightly biting wit, can be a much needed tonic. Heavens having a good hearty laugh and not taking myself too seriously are two of my best allies. How can organizations preserve this important trait without becoming negative and sarcastic?
Was a huge technical, musical and conceptual experiment by the world's most prominent band. From the way it was recorded, to the instrumentation, to the themes and structure, the album was a declaration of innovation by a band at the top of its game and fame. That was an incredibly gutsy thing to do. Here's what they did: they tried new things and, by doing so, inspired musicians and people alike to think differently.
It would be naive to state that a business at the top of its game should do the same, wouldn't it? When was the last time you proposed something untried? Putting things together that we don't usually associate is one way to stimulate this kind of innovation. Yes, we need to prove that it will work in the market. Yet, if we do not try some new things, we will not know whether they will work or not.
One thing is for sure -- the songs remain with you long after you have listened to the notes and bricolage of sounds. Any experience that can draw on images, words (the album sleeve was the first to feature printed lyrics), and sounds will take hold of you more firmly. Our senses want to be engaged, we want to travel along unexpected destinations.
Served notice that untrained people could team with tecnogeeks to break new ground. This is what we do online every day -- we partner with people with different kinds of expertise. If the Beatles helped destroy world elite culture, blogs are helping many more voices join the conversation as content publishers.
There was another important partnership for this album aside from the conceptual and musical talents of the four members of the band: Paul, John, Ringo, and George. It was the connection with art. The composition for the album's cover was an amazing feat of permission requests and design. The imaginary list of people they would want at their concert came alive thanks to the efforts of Robert Fraser, Brian Epstein's assistant, who wrote the permission letters, photographer Michael Cooper, the boy who delivered the floral displays (he made a guitar out of hyacinths), and Peter Blake.
We are already headed that way in business. More free agents and consultants are choosing to collaborate with each other as experts each in their field. Hollywood sort of pioneered this model after the demise of studio contracts in the late '50s and early '60s. Musicians largely freed themselves in the '80s. Are we ready to do that in business? Should everyone do that?
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band didn't start out life as a 'concept album' but it very soon developed a life of its own. I remember it warmly, as both a tremendous challenge and a highly rewarding experience. For me, it was the most innovative, imaginative and trend-setting record of its time." [George Martin]
What set the Beatles apart from other bands? According to Martin, they had an eternal curiosity for doing something different. We design an experience of that kind, too -- with a little help from our friends.