The role of rock.

Watching the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame concert on cable tv this week, I was reminded what rock brings to the party.

Bono put it beautifully when he pronounced from the stage: 'For a lot of us here rock & roll just means one word: liberation!'

Then Bruce Springsteen standing next to him, concerned that Bono might be taking things a tad too seriously, piped up, 'Let's have some fun with this.'

These two statements together capture the rock equation for me. R&R = freedom + joy. And this, as I repeatedly argue on these pages, is a spirit that business is in desperate need of—especially now, when surveys show that workplace morale is plummeting. (An estimate suggests that sixty-five percent of US workers are looking for a new job!)

Our teams and organizations have never been in greater want of that R&R attitude—that alchemy of passion, innovation, personality, aspiration, and independent thinking.

The U2 song 'Stuck in a Moment', though written about a personal tragedy, could just as easily be written about the loss of purpose and the absence of vision that many people—individually and organizationally—experience in their work (and in their lives) in 2009.

But of course it doesn't have to be this way. Your comments are welcomed.

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  1. The HBO concert was better than I expected. Not many duds among the dozens of performers. Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Jeff Beck were in particularly fine form. Work morale is in the toilet mainly because of the economy. Here's MY equation: Oppressive Management plus Tight Job Market equals Depressed Workforce With Few Options. But those of us who work for ourselves have some choices. - TH

  2. Among other things I was blown away by the quality of musicianship on that stage. Stephen Stills never played better; Paul Simon & band were other-worldly, Stevie Wonder & band and Aretha & band were scary-good. And there was Stevie breaking down & crying in the middle of the Michael Jackson song he was singing. (Never saw anything like that in my 50 years of watching concerts!) So many highlights to comment on.. I've watched it twice now. I LOVED Edge's guitar playing on U2's "Stuck in Moment." (I had to use a different video of it on my post - from a concert in Boston eight years ago - but Bono sung it better on the Boston video anyway.)

    For those who missed it, I'm sure it will be available on DVD soon.

    I'll comment on work morale when I have more time tomorrow...

  3. I wonder why we don't have that energy in the music now, or is it there and I'm just not hearing it, which ever, I agree that it would be helpful if the music was producing some kind of rallying or inspiring focus, maybe it needs for things to get worse, can't really imagine why.

  4. TH: employee morale was a big problem before the recession, though it's clearly gotten worse since. The Gallup workplace surveys (among others) have consistently shown low workforce engagement among US workers over the years. Other surveys have shown a high correlation between workforce engagement and business success. Check out my post on

  5. Anon: yours is a familiar lament among Boomers and Gen X'ers who got spoiled on the great rock acts that emerged from those generations. But, as I pondered on my last post, maybe the music is out there but most of us aren't hearing it, given the fragmentation of media. I'm still looking for modern bands that are blazing new trails.

  6. Of course I loved the concert J...was mildly disappointed with Lou Reed and Patti Smith...but heh, just seeing them up there rocking was good enough. It was a great night of viewing. Now on another matter, I see I am not listed in the list of people you have shared a stage with :)

  7. Hey Mike, how's the insider book on GM coming?

    I don't think Metallica was the right backup for Lou Reed (not that anyone asked).

    I'll have to construct a separate list of celebrity consultant/bloggers I've shared the stage with (which of course would feature you).

  8. 'The absence of vision' at my company is a serious morale sapper. Maybe the suits who run the place have a picture of the future but they haven't let the rest of us in on it. There has to be a bigger game than just survival. Otherwise, so what if we survive? Ok, it beats not having a job -- but not by much.

  9. Beth: to quote Proverbs, "Where there is no vision, the people will perish." Translated for 21st century business: "the organization will perish."

    I've always been struck by the "big, hairy, audacious goals" (Jim Collins term) that the great rock & roll bands have had. For instance, the early Beatles viewed every opportunity from the perspective of whether or not it would help them become the biggest musical act in the world. (I mention "Dream & Determination" as one of the critical success qualities that great teams must have - in my short video clip on the right sidebar.)

  10. Nick, I'm sure the DVD will be out soon. Most musicians I know - many of them even more cynical than I am about these kinds of mashups of superstar bands and guest singers - were knocked out by it. I probably would have blown it off if a friend in Asheville hadn't persuaded me to check it out. But I loved 90% of it and I suddenly have a new appreciation of U2 - and especially the Edge - as a result of it. Still can't get over the performances of Paul Simon + band, Simon & Garfunkel's vocals, & Stevie Wonder + band. But Beck was great too, etc. etc.

  11. Just one band I never really listen to. Great song. Nice grove created, and i love the sound of the Strat in tunes like this. Fun and Freedom sounds like a winning formula if it includes accountability and responsibility.

  12. Yeah, the Fender Stratocaster is MADE for a song like "Stuck in a Moment."

    Responsibility and accountability are widely accepted as success prerequisites for any small team or organization. Not so true for freedom and fun, which is why I trumpet them.

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