Bohemian Rhapsody

I went to see Bohemian Rhapsody, the film about the rock band Queen yesterday, with my fiance Jackie. Let me just start by stating, for me, it it was one of my top 3 films ever, up there with The Shawshank Redemption & The Green Mile.

What struck me very early on however, and these realisations increased as the film went on, were the parallels between Queen’s approach to their music and much of what is being discussed today around #thefutureofwork.

I promise that I am not going to give away any major spoilers !

Experimentation

Queen’s rapid rise to the top did not come from them doing ‘more of the same’ or looking in the rear-view mirror at what their competition were doing, both traits that are well evidenced by our outdated organisational design models & mindsets.

Queen become the unique, cutting-edge, game-changing musicians that they were, in part, as they experimented. They took their craft, cut it, spliced it, changed it…and look what the result was.

What could your own life or organisation look like if we experimented some more?

This plays beautifully into the current focus on Agile ways of working, such as Scrum, self-management and others. These approaches allow & indeed seek iteration by design which is why, for me, some of the most creative, innovative & game-changing organisations of our time are software-based, however the likes of Perry Timms is charting a new course in the field of HR using agile ways of working and his own transformational-HR model, again, an iterative process.

Other inspirations for me in this area include Helen Sanderson at Wellbeing Teams, Lisa Gill & Jenny Andersson from We Activate The Future. Jenny’s recent TEDx talk can be found here:

Also this reminds me of the great work by two inspiring peers in the field of job-crafting, Rob Baker & Rich Cooper. They are experimenting, challenging normal ways of working and seeing great benefits as a result.

Risk-taking

When Queen wanted to put Bohemian Rhapsody onto the radio, EMI stated that “you will not get airtime with anything that is more than 3 minutes long” or words to that effect.

Freddy Mercury & Queen being who they were said no. They either play the full 6 minutes or EMI does not get the song. Needless to say EMI were gutted with hindsight, but the parallels here for me are with regards our own personal values & purpose.

When we are so clear on who we are, what we believe in and what gives us the most energy, it is so much easier to walk away from situations where your values & purpose are comprised, as was the case here for Queen. Could they be seen as arrogant? Maybe. Could they be seen to be staying in integrity, true to themselves? Definitely.

The risk they took was to back themselves, even in the face of a potentially huge uplift in-their career, and work with someone that was prepared to work with them, who aligned with their purpose & passions.

There is much talk currently around Millennials seeking more purpose & meaning in their work and looking to change their roles every 2-3 years. I am not a huge fan of labels, but the sentiment I fully share in both areas.

What could all of our lives look like if we knew we could up-skill, change our role & get on a new learning curve etc every 2-3 years? Would this create more of a culture of risk-taking & innovation, within safe boundaries? I think it would.

Whitney Johnson is doing great work in this regard and I fully recommend her Disrupt Yourself podcast as a go-to listen. I have gained so much insight & learning from her podcast, again thank you Rich Cooper for making me aware of her work.

https://whitneyjohnson.com/category/podcast/

I also reflect on a recent talk that I had the pleasure to be a part of with Garry Ridge of WD-40, part of the recent WorldBlu Freedom at Work Experience event held in San Diego. One of my questions for Garry was “hearing you talk about the opportunities that exist for people to craft different careers, could it be that the job for life is not actually dead?” Garry’s response was typical of his servant-leader style in that he advised “I talk about a journey for life, not a job for life.” Enough said.

Team dynamics/Objection handling

Queen’s rise to the top was not without its ups and down’s. This is pretty well known, but during the film ego, fear, tension all came up. All of these are typical traits of high performing teams but the magic sauce of such teams is in their ability to debate, fiercely at times, but come away from the table friends, colleagues & intact with new ideas, suggestions & solutions as to how to move forward.

Two of my favourite reads in this area both come from Patrick Lencioni, 5 Dysfunctions of a team & Organisational Health.

Why I like this model is the reflection that most organisations, even today in the 21st century, start at the top, myopically focused on just attention to results, not inattention, but that is pretty much the only focus.

Trust, fear of conflict, accountability – Rarely are any of these, in my experience to date, actively sought to be debated, discussed & honed which explains why, for me, the Gallup global engagement stats, at best, evidence 1 in 3 people being fully engaged.

As we move towards a future that is even more distinctly human, whilst augmenting with technology, the ability to debate, constructively, is critical. This means our ability to be empathetic, to listen, to be vulnerable, to trust, to be inclusive & to be curious is so, so important.

The following World Economic Forum report highlights the importance of such skills and they are skills that I am looking to support individuals & organisations with via The Listening Organisation:

https://thelisteningorganisation.co.uk/

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/03/21st-century-skills-future-jobs-students/

Summary

In summary, I did not expect to see one of my favourite movies of all time and see the stark parallels with our current future of work, but I did and thus I am really interested in your thoughts, views & challenges to this.

The people that lead our organisations are dealing with more change, more quickly than ever before, which is a challenge. My reason for this article is to advise those leaders not to be invulnerable or afraid. The people around you who have all the info you could ever need to innovate, take risks & experiment, so look out for them and give them a voice.

Do go and see the film, it is truly awesome.

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