For the last six months I’ve spent my Tuesday evenings singing in a choir.
When we start a new song, our musical director’s first move is to break down each song into its component parts. I’m a baritone, so I’ll learn that line while the sopranos and altos learn theirs.
We’ll work through the song over and over again until we’ve got it. And then we’ll sing the whole thing back, inevitably nailing the easy bits and messing up the tricky bits, even though we had them down pat moments earlier.
At this point, we’re using what Nobel-prize winning psychologist Danny Kahneman calls ‘System 2 thinking’ to learn the song. In other words, we’re actively thinking about every note.
That’s not ideal for music. If you have to consult your memory banks before you even open your mouth, you’ll still be on A B C when everyone else is on Do Re Mi.
So to make the song sound natural, you have to get to the point where you can use your instinctive mode of thinking: System 1.
That’s what Pharrell means by lose yourself to dance. It’s what Eminem means by lose yourself in the music, the moment. It’s what Madonna means by let your body move to the music.
These singers practise like crazy until every crotchet and quaver is instinctive.
A business is a lot like a choir. When you’re going through a change programme, maybe rolling out a new tone of voice, or a new strategy, or a new set of personality traits, you want everyone to live and breathe it.
But often all we do is give out a set of guidelines and assume the job’s done. That’s like handing me a manuscript full of notes I can’t read, sitting back with your arms folded and saying, ‘Go on then’.
It’s the next bit that counts. The bit where you painstakingly show people what the tone of voice, strategy or traits really mean, and get them to the point where they can do it without thinking about it.
That’s what’ll really make your business sing.