As a professional songwriter for the past thirty years, I know exactly why I write songs. I can’t help it. It’s my way of making sense of the world around me and, very fortunately, also the way I make my living. However, for the past eight years I’ve been helping business teams enhance their creativity and solve problems by teaching them to write songs. Understandably, there is no small amount of reluctance by executives to do something so utterly foreign to them. To that end, I’ve put together a few compelling reasons why all business teams should learn to write songs.

1. Learning to write songs makes you think differently

I’ll begin by saying I’m a big fan of the Abraham Maslow quote, “if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.” Consider exploring your ideas and objectives through the lens of songwriting as a new “tool” in your problem-solving toolkit. By examining ideas through metaphor and the emotion-rich language of lyrics, you’re opening up a new way of approaching old or persistent work challenges which will lead to novel and innovative solutions.

2. Learning to write songs takes you out of your comfort zone

As human beings we naturally lean towards preserving the status quo. It’s comfortable and gives us the illusion of control. The reality, however, is that the “safety” of the status quo is anything but safe. We may not want to change but the world will change around us no matter what we want. Leaving your comfort zone in pursuit of a new way to solve problems and examine ideas is a good reminder that the real rewards and solutions exist in leaving the tried and true behind. On top of that, songwriting as a high challenge, high skill and clear objective practice helps business teams achieve a flow state which is, in and of itself, highly satisfying and profoundly motivating.

3. Writing a song shows you that you can do something “impossible”

For most people, the idea of writing a song can seem more like a magic trick or an impossible dream. But my favorite part of what I do with business teams is that I take smart people who don’t consider themselves to be creative and I give them the tools to explore and enhance their creativity. By breaking down the process of songwriting into its component parts, I show the team that songwriting is a craft that can be learned. When a team “does the impossible” and writes a song, there’s a tangible boost of confidence that carries forward and helps the team tackle other seemingly “impossible” issues.

4. Learning to write songs improves your ability to communicate

The beauty of the lyric writing is how it requires us to communicate only the most critical parts of our ideas and say them in a way that is both clear and memorable. While the verses of songs improve our ability to use image-rich language in the service of telling a story, it’s the chorus that teaches us the skill of distilling a message so that it not only makes a clear point but also does it in a way that people will want to hear. If communication is a muscle, then writing song lyrics is a serious workout.

5. Writing songs brings teams together around a common cause

There’s nothing quite like a challenge with a clear goal to bring a team together. Above and beyond exploring ideas and objectives, learning to write songs bonds teams around learning a new way to express themselves. The finished song (and every team I’ve ever worked with finishes their song) serves as tangible – and singable – proof that the team has rallied and done something they weren’t sure that they could do. It’s like a shot of jet fuel for team bonding.

Conclusion

It is highly likely that becoming a songwriter isn’t the reason you joined your current company. Regardless, I can promise you that using songwriting as a new way to explore ideas and improve your team’s creativity and communication will make you and your team better equipped to handle the challenges you face on a daily basis. Take it from a veteran of almost a decade of work teaching business teams to write songs. It works and it works well.

-Cliff

Find out more about Cliff’s creativity & innovation workshops for business teams.

If I’ve noticed anything my thirty-plus years of writing songs, it’s that there is nothing quite as powerful as a song to connect and mobilize people. To that end, I’ve begun offering a new service to my clients that I call the Team Theme.

This works in one of two ways.  First, I can lead the team through my songwriting workshop empowering the participants themselves to write a song that addresses an important objective or team mission statement. Or, based on a series of in-depth discussions in advance, I can write a song for the team that captures the essence of their goal or message.

Either way, it’s what happens next that counts.

Taking the rough recording done at the time (typically an acoustic guitar and vocal recorded into a smartphone), I can bring in the A-list session musicians and vocalists that Nashville has in stunning abundance and, together, we can create a world-class master recording of the clients’ finished song.

It’s not unusual that the players involved would be, for example, Sheryl Crow’s guitarist, Aerosmith’s drummer and a vocalist who goes on later to sign their own record deal or become a contestant on The Voice (and, by the way, all of those example are real). 

Here’s why this matters.

Not only does the team end up with a beautifully recorded song that encapsulates their values and mission but they’ve also invested in a tangible asset that they can use in future presentations, meetings, social media (which is more and more about video and sound these days) and countless other situations where quality audio will bring a presentation or an event over the top.

But as one of my favorite expressions states, “talking about music is like dancing about architecture.”  In other words, you have to hear it to believe it. 

Click the links below to hear both a “before” and “after” snippet of one of my recent Team Themes.

The Rough Recording

The Team Theme

And, finally, when the team (or entire company for that matter) hears their finished theme, it works like jet fuel for bonding and motivation.

As always, I’m happy to answer any/all questions about how the Team Theme can work for your group so don’t hesitate to reach out.

-Cliff

p.s. Team members are always welcome to come to the studio on the day of the session or, if that isn’t possible, they can access a link to the live studio stream so they can hear their song coming to life as it happens!

Find out more about Cliff’s creativity & innovation workshops for business teams.

I began writing songs in the late 80s and my process then was anything but brief. First of all, I had little to no idea of how my own creative process worked so I spent a decent amount of time simply waiting around for inspiration to find me. When it did – at ridiculously irregular intervals, I might add – I would then wrestle with my song over a period of weeks and months (sometimes even years) never fully feeling like I was finished. Thirty years later, a typical writing session for me is around three hours from blank page to recorded demo. A lot has changed in my understanding of the craft of songwriting – and creativity in general – over the years. Along with this hard-won understanding, I’ve also learned how effective time constraints can be for the creative process. Below are a few of the reasons why.

Sometimes you simply don’t have more time

As much as we would all like to have unlimited time, the reality is that there are occasions when we need to create and create quickly in order to take advantage of an existing opportunity. In those instances, knowing how to access inspiration and move forward can be critical. In my world, I’m often put together to write songs with touring artists who may only be in town for an afternoon before a show. If I’m hoping to co-write a new song for the artist to record on their next album, it’s up to me to shepherd the collaborative process so that we have a finished song in the time allotted. My ability to write on a tight deadline has provided me with some of my most successful – and artistically satisfying – songs.

Moving quickly helps focus your concentration

Another benefit of knowing we don’t have unlimited time to create is that it forces us to eliminate distractions and concentrate on the matter at hand. We’re all pulled in many directions throughout our days and it’s, unfortunately, much too easy to drift away from a creative task if we know we’ll have the luxury of returning to it later. As noted flow expert Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has observed, the combination of high-challenge, high-skill requirements and the clear objectives in time-sensitive creative work, can lead to entering a flow state where distractions and even a sense of time fade away leaving only the process at hand. Speaking from experience, I can say that achieving flow in this way is not only highly satisfying but also deeply motivating.

Working with a limited amount of time gets you out of your own way

Take it from me, a recovering micro-manager in the extreme, finding ways not to obsess over insignificant details is critical to the creative process. There is a reason that I keep my creativity work with business teams to between sixty and ninety minutes. If I’m asking seasoned executives to leave their comfort zones to do something as seemingly “impossible” as writing a song, I don’t want to leave them too much time to think about it. Instead, by moving quickly and only focusing on big picture creativity, my business teams are able to write songs without getting bogged down in any of the less important details. In our limited time together, all of my teams – without exception – achieve a “minimum viable product” (i.e., a song) which serves as a reminder that we all have the capacity to be creative if we can stay out of our own way. Working quickly helps us to do that.

Time is a limited resource

I’ve never been an advocate of moving quickly for speed’s sake. However, it doesn’t hurt to remember that time is one of our most limited and precious resources. Learning to access your creativity within tight time parameters is an excellent way to take advantage of the time we have available.

-Cliff

Find out more about Cliff’s creativity & innovation workshops for business teams.