Yikes, another great DIY band. These guys are scary-good: a jazz-schooled pop-rock-soul quartet, featuring a sultry lead vocalist and three world-class musicians on drums, stand-up bass, and guitar/trumpet. They’re relatively unknown, but not for long. Let me introduce to you: Lake Street Dive. (They probably don't want to be called by their initials, but that’s just a guess.)
They hail from different parts of the US, but because they formed at the prestigious New England Conservatory they're often labeled “Boston-based." They actually reside in Brooklyn (when they're not endlessly touring in their van), but we Bostonians—if I may speak for all of us—would be more than happy to claim this band as our own.
One of so many things I love about this band is that they are flat-out unique. I was initially struck by how bare their musical accompaniment is, but this minimalist instrumentation leaves copious bandwidth for Rachael Price’s vocals, and she certainly doesn’t disappoint. Watch the band—Mike Calabrese, Bridget Kearney, Mike "McDuck" Olson, and Price—perform one of their tunes live.
In business, I always like teams and organizations that stand out from the herd in some way—whose product or service (or business model or something) breaks from the pack. This usually begins with the team/organization having a unique identity, which gets reflected in their product, service, etc. (My oft-cited example: The initial Apple Macintosh team prided themselves on being a band of iconoclastic renegades, which was amply expressed in the first Macintosh—and then in its marketing campaign.)
So, if you’re a team that’s starting out, it’s important to discover your own identity—and then to express it and celebrate it. Having that team personality helps you develop your brand, along with your purpose, your passion, and your independent spirit—which are all interwoven with creativity and innovation. (So much so that it’s hard to even distinguish these elements from each other, though I attempt to do just that in my book.)
In working with new teams, I like to begin by encouraging that identity to reveal itself. This requires a certain amount of “hands-off”—which many business coaches (and too many managers) seem reluctant to grant. (Of course this doesn’t mean that teams can’t be educated or trained, but their "organic chemistry" needs to be respected.) Once teams discover who they are, the creativity follows.
My guess is that a team like Lake Street Dive took their time developing their identity—without much direction from the outside—and came to realize that their three-piece bare-bones sound could be an asset given its uniqueness. (When Olsen switches from guitar to trumpet, there's no instrument laying out chords for the lead vocal to “sit on”—a unusual effect, but one they've learned to exploit for the benefit of Price’s expansive singing style.) Simply put, they arrived at (stumbled upon?) THEIR OWN WAY of doing things, which is now paying off.
As you've read before on this blog: different isn't always better, but better is always different.
Of course being exceptionally talented doesn't hurt either, as the Dive demonstrate. But talent is never enough.
HEALTH WARNING: do not watch these videos at work. You won’t be able to stop with three or four. Watching clips of Lake Street Dive can become seriously habit-forming, undermining your productivity and possibly your continued employment.