Recently I saw a documentary called: The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. As I’m sure you know, Yo-Yo Ma is a world-renowned cellist. He also is interested in the intersection of art and culture. Back in 2000, he invited musicians from all over the world to share their musical culture and instruments. The result is the Silk Road Ensemble. Made up of performers and composers from more than 20 countries, the Silk Road Ensemble has played in over 30 countries throughout Asia, Europe, and North America. Audiences and critics love these artists, who are passionate about cross-cultural understanding.
The music in the film was great, but the discussions of culture were what really interested me. In one of the interviews, Yo-Yo Ma said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that true creativity occurs at the intersection of cultural ideas. In other words, we become more creative the more we engage with and understand people who are different from us.
Understanding Problems and Opportunities
There’s an important business lesson here. The more we listen to others who have ideas and thoughts that differ from our own, the better we will understand the problems and opportunities facing us. Savvy marketers know that listening is the key to understand their customers.
These days, there’s not a lot of listening going on in the world. All you have to do is turn on CNN and watch for a couple of minutes to see what I mean.
I tell my coaching clients that they should listen hardest when they’re speaking with people who have ideas different from theirs. This isn’t easy to do. But it’s the best way to make progress.
My friend, Judith Glaser, author of Conversational Intelligence, says that there are three types of conversations: 1) Transactional: These types of conversations are about exchanging information, telling and asking; 2) Positional: These types of conversations are about advocating for our positions, convincing others to agree with us; and 3) Transformational: These types of conversations are about exchanging energy, sharing thoughts and discovering new information. When you engage in transformational conversations you are in a co-creation mode. You open the way to broader insights, wisdom, and shared success. And, you are more likely to create a powerful brand.
That’s what Yo-Yo Ma has done with the Silk Road Ensemble. Its music is familiar and foreign, traditional and innovative. And to me, the right mix of familiar and foreign and tradition and innovation has the makings of a powerful brand. Go and see The Music of Strangers. Enjoy the music, but as you watch, think about how some of the principles expressed in the film can help you create a more powerful brand.
And, get to know people who are different from you—race, gender, religion, national origin, political persuasion—engage them in discussion. Listen to their points of view and present yours in a respectful way. That’s the way to broader insight and wisdom—important characteristics for any brand manager.