How the behavioural codes of professional musicians can unleash transformational performance in any team setting.
In 2015 I met Mark Smulian, a skilled, charismatic bass player. This was 20 years after his journey of discovery which led to the understandings I am sharing with you.
We started to talk.
From London he, like many others, left for Israel in the 70s with the dream of building a better society. He soon started his national service as a paratrooper in the Israeli army. It didn’t take long for the dream to fade when he found himself, armed, chasing poor Palestinian kids round the back streets of the West Bank.
He then travelled to the US to study and play music and back to Israel where he set up a studio and produced a string of award-winning albums. During this period, he did what no-one else had previously attempted: He formed a rock band with musicians from Gaza and Israel.
Not only were there physical barriers such as heavily guarded crossing points, there were also linguistic barriers and different musical traditions to overcome. And of course, the emotional and political divides. These two peoples, living so closely together were mortal enemies.
All those involved pushed through and overcame seemingly overwhelming odds to create a high-functioning, top-quality group that recorded and even toured internationally. And in the development of this unlikely venture there came an extraordinary insight.
People often talk about how music helps lift our mood and relax. It can predispose us to ‘opening up’. But this wasn’t the real insight.
What Mark realised was that playing music, or active engagement in music-making, is not a precursor to dialogue; a ‘warm-up’ or ‘aperitif’ to dialogue.
No – Music is the dialogue.
As for myself, I have spent the last 25 years working in business, advising on and managing brand creation. These years of working with many businesses large and small have helped me realise how important high-functioning teamwork is to achieving business goals. It’s no different from a musical group working and collaborating for successful artistic outcomes.
Musicians serious about creating a quality outcome have to adopt particular emotional behaviours. These form the basis of the system we have evolved. We call them the ‘Harmonic Codes’ which, when employed, dramatically enhance team performance and when ignored, undermine teamwork.
The 3 Principles:
Respect – understanding, respecting and enjoying the individuality of others and yourself
Responsibility – understanding one’s own positioning as an individual within the group at any given moment
Listening – stepping back, observing and hearing the collective and self as a single event
This got me excited. I could immediately see how the Harmonic Codes would translate out of the confines of the musical world into any team-dependent situation.
For the next 2 years I carried these ideas into every business meeting I went to. I observed and tested them out. The results were very clear to me. When the Harmonic Codes were in play, things happened. Decisions were made smoothly, ideas and arguments were listened to. People were empowered. Things got done well. I knew we were onto something.
So, we had a system, but how could we embed these ideas without creating a dry, classroom learning experience? Then came the next unlikely plan!
What if we had some kind of musical device that would empower anyone – with or without any musical training or experience – to consciously experience and practice the Harmonic Codes?
This is when MindHarp was born. We worked on developing a super simple user interface and tested hundreds of sounds and musical ideas with a wide range of audiences, from 8 to 80 year olds!
Fast-forward 2 years – we now have our App-based MindHarp. And it is so much more than we first imagined. Not only can people use it as a tool for practicing the Harmonic Codes, it’s expanding as a unique well-being practice.
At the centre of it, whatever the audience or the endgame, we stand by Mark’s original purpose and vision: Let Music Lead.