Damola suggested that I could supplement the blog with a regular newsletter.
I thought I might make some broad observations about business prompted by plays, films, art, articles and so forth.
So here are this week’s notes from the hinterland…
If We Rid Ourselves of Our Demons, We’ll Lose Our Angels Too
In a recent Desert Island Discs, Stephen Fry quoted Tennessee Williams: ‘If I got rid of my demons, I’d lose my angels too.’
Creative businesses are often confronted with behaviour that is unreliable and unruly, eccentric and erratic. If we expect unconventional answers, we should not be surprised when they come from unconventional sources. Creative talent rarely arrives with a diploma for good behaviour.
And yet creative businesses also have staff that need protecting and values that need sustaining. So where should we draw the line?
I saw the new Marber play, The Red Lion, at the National Theatre. It’s a compelling piece about life in lower league football. It boasts rich language, good observations on masculinity and some very funny moments.
In the programme notes the former England cricket captain Mike Brearley considers the ‘gang culture’ and ‘mutual humiliation’ at the heart of modern sport.
‘A young middle order batsman who murmured sycophantically to [the bowler} Fred Trueman on his way back to the Pavilion, ‘That was a fine delivery, Fred’ – received the reply ‘Aye, and it were wasted on thee.’
There is a fine line between such more or less legitimate discomfiting gestures and messages on the one hand, and behaviour that goes beyond the spirit of the game on the other…
Sport could not have arisen without individual competitiveness, ambition and Oedipal striving. But nor could it have arisen without love, cooperation and respect.’
As ever, sport poses questions that are just as relevant to business and life. What is the appropriate level of competitiveness and rivalry in the era of partnership and collaboration?
The Same But Different
I watched a very funny screwball comedy from 1937. In The Awful Truth Irene Dunne and Cary Grant spar with each other over their divorce.
Lucy: ‘Things are just the same as they always were, only you’re the same as you were too, so I guess things will never be the same again.’
Jerry: ‘You’re wrong about things being different because they’re not the same. Things are different except in a different way. You’re still the same, only I’ve been a fool and I’m not now. So long as I’m different, don’t you think that…well maybe things could be the same again…only a little different, huh?’
It struck me that this is an age-old yearning that applies as much to business as to love. We want to embrace change, but somehow to acknowledge timeless truths. The same but different…
Multi-tasking v Mono-tasking
The Beckett radio play All That Fall was recently performed at the Barbican for an audience sitting in deckchairs. Though it sounds suspiciously like physical theatre, I have to say it was an excellent experience. In the play Mr Rooney demands:
‘Once and for all, do not ask me to speak and move at the same time. I shall not say this in this life again.’
I’m with Mr Rooney. I have always been more a mono-tasker than a multi-tasker. I was encouraged by recent research that suggests the productivity associated with multi-tasking is a myth. Some have suggested it should be called ‘multi-switching’ rather than multi-tasking.
A Lawyer in Heaven
At a visit to the National Gallery yesterday I noticed this excellent painting of Saint Ivo by the Workshop of Rogier van der Weyden. Ivo is celebrated as 'the patron saint of lawyers and an advocate of the poor'…