One hundred lone wolves. One objective.
Christian Gansch has achieved success as a conductor of top international orchestras and as a music producer, and is thus familiar with both worlds: the artistic and the commercial. In an interview with Honourables chairman Michael Lohr, Gansch explains why companies should model themselves on orchestras.
“Every orchestra is made up of individualists”, says Christian Gansch, “but the audience has paid for an overall concept. They’re not interested in the often laborious processes of achieving consensus during rehearsal.” And yet, believes the conductor, orchestras and service companies are virtually identical.
An orchestral company is headed by a conductor. “A conductor’s job is to create a homogeneous whole, while the members of the orchestra also consult among themselves”, explains Gansch. Management executives are at the head of individual groups of “instruments”, directing the performance with clear gestures of their instrument. The conductor is responsible for organising a cross-departmental “interaction of expertise”, obeying the principle of “listening to each other, acting with each other”. Applying his ability to think as both a virtuoso and an entrepreneur, Gansch has concluded from experience that this principle is lacking in many companies.
Orchestral mindset and action
In Gansch’s view, the orchestra is a metaphor for society; the object is to convince different roles, functions, characters and even interests to work together towards a clear goal. As a classical orchestra has up to 15 different sections, they naturally need someone with strong leadership qualities: the conductor. “Yet the interaction can only work when each of these individual members is motivated and dedicated enough to make a positive contribution in an atmosphere of mutual trust.”
In his activities as a producer, Christian Gansch’s role was cross-functional, moving between production, marketing, distribution and financial controlling – a capacity in which he won four Grammy Awards. And as the conductor of numerous top orchestras around the world, he has set down his experiences in the worlds of art and business in two books, launched the trend of “entrepreneurialism as orchestra” in German speaking countries, and is a sought-after speaker in Germany and abroad.
“A conductor’s baton has never played a note”, jokes Gansch in reference to critics who believe the conductor’s role is all-powerful. It is no easy task for a conductor to convince one hundred superbly trained musicians of one person’s individual vision. A conductor must also facilitate communication between all stakeholders in the process. “In fact”, sums up Gansch, “you need 100 top-class individualists – and one person that brings all their expertise together.”
“In my 14 years in business, my orchestral background meant that I was often baffled by the difficulty of orchestrating cooperation between the individual sections of a company”, reports Gansch. Many employees would vigorously defend their individual rights and powers without ever thinking outside the box – even though they were all working on the same product. The members of an orchestra, however, are constantly challenged to switch from focusing on themselves as individuals to being members of a team – from individualism to togetherness. Gansch believes, “That would be a good approach for companies too.”
Ultimately, the only concern is the audience – or, in our metaphor, the customers. Whether they’re attending a concert at the Philharmonic Hall or buying a washing machine, Christian Gansch perceives many parallels between business and orchestras. “The audience has a right to expect the orchestra will deliver a uniform, homogeneous performance. If the concert is poor, listeners are unlikely to say ‘The flautist played badly’; instead, they’ll think, ‘The orchestra was no good’”. Similarly, says Gansch, customers judge a washing-machine on whether it delivers faultless performance, without wanting to know the ins and outs of the manufacturing process.
Christian Gansch’s latest book:
“Mehr Individualität bitte! Wie wir mit unseren Kindern dem Mainstream entkommen” [More individuality, please! How our children can lift us out of the mainstream] has been published by Südwest-Verlag and is available in bookstores (currently German only). The author’s website at www.gansch.de has a direct link to Amazon.
About the book:
The age we live in claims to offer individuals an unprecedented wealth of opportunities to develop their personal strengths and preferences. But in reality, we are increasingly narrowing our concept of life to the norms, images and stereotypes with which countless media channels bombard us, day in day out. We align our individual needs to the prevailing mainstream and make the achievement of that mainstream our goal without a second thought.
Children, however, still have a fresh and authentic eye. Their curiosity and openness enables them to grow – if we let them. We admire their spontaneity as long as they conform to our predefined expectations.
“Mehr Individualität bitte!” is a plea for more courage and strength in developing our personal viewpoint. We need to re-infuse our day-to-day routine with imagination and creativity if we are to regain mastery over our lives.