What The Beatles and Alec Baldwin Can Teach Us About Management

Inspiration can – and often does – come from the most unexpected places. For example, I have been watching the “Get Back” documentary about the waning days of the Beatles as they recorded “Let It Be” and prepared for their first live performance in years. I also recently listened to an interview with Alec Baldwin about directing full length feature films.

In “Get Back”, we are treated to a unique and fascinating look at how the Beatles created music. It was sausage-making at its best as the process wasn’t often pretty, the sailing was not frequently smooth, and the musical harmony was only periodically matched by some measure of actual harmony between the four fractured member of the greatest musical group in history.

For someone who does not make music, I had assumed that a writer or writers would bring a finished product, or at least close to finished, to the studio and then the band members took that blueprint and brought it to completion. But in the case of the Beatles, and as I have learned, most recording artists, the process is far less linear than that. The creative process extends beyond the writing and right into recording and even post-production. It’s an iterative process that requires the participation and contribution of others to help produce a finished work.

In the Alec Baldwin interview, he stated that the hardest and most important part of the directing process is casting. If you get the right people in your cast, then every single aspect of what follows from there will be easier and better. And, those cast members will contribute to the creative process, suggesting script revisions, alterations to character development, and sometimes bring about wholesale changes which result in a different but better movie. Again, it’s an iterative process.

When I think about the highlights of my management career and the best teams I’ve been part of or had the privilege of leading, I recall the fact that there was a great deal of interactivity and iterating taking place in the creative process; decision-making allowed for some give and take and though as CEO, I was called upon to make the final decisions, there were times when some of the members of my “cast” had feedback that materially altered my own thinking. Additionally, even in teams where there was tension and conflict just below the surface, mutual respect and an environment that allowed for public debate often resulted in a far better end product.

Leading an organization is not the same as creating a musical recording or directing a film… but I do believe that the process of creating something worthwhile, memorable, and impactful can draw from these other endeavors.

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