This one is Dave Everitt, who is a gifted creative; a songwriter, guitarist and musician, with finesse, fine senses and a fey clarity. Life and its challenges helped him to learn to marshal and manage his energy carefully to stay well and productive. I knew him so many years ago… but his influence helped awake an irreversible irreverence in me towards all things counter-creative. So what is the relevance of rhythm for strategy?
Rhythm and planning – yearly, monthly, daily – still linked to our primeval planetary routines. Strategy creates a rhythm of planning, but more importantly, of learning. Like a hand, opening and closing regularly, we explore and sense, opening out, and then close in to make sense, good-enough, of what we have been through. Too much open, we lose focus and sense; too much closed, we lose relevance and richness. The faster stuff happens, the quicker our learning rhythm needs to be to keep up. And the faster stuff happens, the slower our moments of reflection need to be so we can make good sense of it and to allow new ideas to come. In an exponential world many of our answers are new – inferred not extrapolated.
Other rhythms – the rhythm of war, dread and purposeful……. the Haka; Zulu warriors drumming shields before battle; the crunching thousands of marching boots; drums – rhythms to inspire fear and raise courage. See the Haka here:
Rhythms of love – making love, gently or wildly, of songs to open the heart, coming together in creation. Rhythms of music, sometimes orchestral, the score – black dots on white paper – given force, life and passion with the interpretation and compelling inspiration of the conductor; or sometimes made up – just the right amount of rhythm to give structure for a leaderless improvisation and a fleeting, unforgettable beauty and cohesion – an ice sculpture of sound, melted soon and then repeated, but never the same, each time perfectly contextualised in that time and space.
Much about strategy is somehow rhythmic, I think. Rhythm gives a basic structure for coordination, cohesion and comprehension – pulsing between the rhythms of exploration and sensemaking, of warmaking and lovemaking. Life is rhythms, our hearts, our breath, our minds, our speech. Rhythm stops and so do we.
Organisations create patterns and processes to help us repeat our successes – like roadbuilders taking bulldozers through virgin bush, and laying tarmac behind to allow the rest to follow fast and easily. Rituals for sense and purpose. But then we need to break the rhythm (Dewitt Jones), ‘question, not destroy it’ like the bucket in the picture that brings it life again just as we start to lose interest.
But my favourite lesson from rhythm is from Evelyn Glennie – the profoundly deaf percussionist. She feels the rhythm though her feet and body. And so with strategy – maybe move away from the dots on paper and start, too, to feel our rhythms in our bared feet, on our open chests and in the passion and flow of our work together.
Jon is dean and director of Henley Business School, Africa, the African operation of Henley Business School UK, a world top 1% business school and part of the University of Reading, UK. For 15 years prior to joining Henley, he was the faculty member for strategy and creativity, designer and director of the executive MBA and director of executive education at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business. He has been a visiting professor in creativity and innovation. He was an airline captain, flying instructor, flight examiner and aerobatic competitor. In corporate life he was an executive with British Aerospace and Airbus Industrie. He teaches, speaks, consults and advises numerous companies in Africa and internationally.