Decisions, decisions

Footprints What do you do when you’ve started writing a letter, an article, a speech, a blog post—or begun almost anything creative—and you’re having trouble choosing between several different directions to go with it? Sound familiar?

Each direction could work, you think. But you’re stuck trying to decide which one. Well, you might try a simple technique that worked for Paul McCartney when he was trying to finish a song for The Beatles.

McCartney sometimes couldn’t decide on the lyrics for a piece of music he’d written. Should the lyrics be about X, Y, or Z? (Leaving his lover? Reuniting with his lover? Finding a new lover?) But instead of staying stuck, McCartney would immediately explore the different possibilities. He would write complete sets of lyrics for each, and then choose which one worked best.

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Can you identify with this?

imgres The lesson for today, girls and boys, is on “projective identification.” (Hey, pay attention. There may be a quiz.)

You’re probably aware that you can unconsciously “project” attributes (bad and good) onto others—whether lovers, therapists, bosses, political leaders, etc. But if you can get those others to “identify” with your projections, things can get really interesting. They can start believing that they are dumber, weaker, more flawed than they really are—or wiser, stronger, more virtuous—depending on your idealized fantasies!

This projective identification is well-known to therapists who must be forever vigilant against it, so they don’t buy into their patients’ imaginings of them and begin behaving out of character.

It’s less-understood in the workplace where executives, managers, and supervisors can internalize their employees’ fantasies about them, good or bad. If organizational leaders don’t have a strong sense of self to begin with—an effective boundary against the onslaught of projections hurled at them—they’re especially vulnerable to such transference. (In the self-help lit they’re sometimes called “wounded leaders” because of their unresolved personal issues.) The raging boss or supercilious executive are typical examples.

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The happiest band in the business

I was just alerted by my daughter to the latest madcap video of Walk Off The Earth, so I'm scrapping what I was about to post and am featuring this clip instead. In this vid WOTE has teamed up with the Virginia pop/rock band Parachute to deliver a peppy cover of Pharrell’s global hit, "Happy."

What I love about Walk Off The Earth is the creative joy of their work, which their live shows amply demonstrate. (Try to catch them in a small club, while you still can.) In keeping with their brand, WOTE's videos are wonderfully nutty. Note the “forced vibrato” in Sarah Blackwood’s vocals later in the clip.

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I’ve said it before and I won't stop: Why can’t more businesses reflect this sense of FUN? Why are there only a handful of well-known organizations that have made "being alive" a "way of life"? (Think: Zappos or Southwest Airlines or the late, great Commerce Bank.) If innovation—the foundation of the Creative Economy—is nurtured in a culture that encourages a lightness of being, an attitude of good cheer, and a sense of experimental PLAY, why is the 21st century workplace still such a grim place? (Of course there are exceptions, and I sincerely hope you work in one.)

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Business lessons from Rak

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Occasionally I have sudden recollections of long-forgotten incidents in my life, usually from the time I played music for a living.

I reinvented myself so completely as a management consultant over the years that these memories seemed to vanish along with my rock & roll persona!

Today, however, I awoke with a surprisingly vivid memory of a jam session I had with a neighbor in Venice, California, many decades ago. One warm summer evening, toting a cheap pair of bongo drums, I invited myself into a party across the street and quickly found myself trading hand-drum riffs with an affable Indian gentleman. Little did I know that this diminutive but big-hearted fellow sitting next to me on the floor was considered by many to be the #1 percussionist in the world. I found out later it was Alla Rakha, the renowned tabla player who had played Woodstock and the Monterey Pop Festival with Ravi Shakar—events that introduced a generation of young Americans to classical Indian music.

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