What the hell does 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, a marshmallow and a Kindergartener have to do with your artist career?
These were the raw materials presented to several different 4-person groups with a specific challenge.
The Challenge: Each group has 18 minutes to build the tallest freestanding structure they could with the given materials but the marshmallow has to be on top.
In Tom Wujec’s captivating TED Talk, he explains that this task seems simple enough, but it’s actually pretty hard because it forces people to collaborate quickly. Wujec mentions that there is something about this exercise that reveals deep lessons about the nature of collaboration and I would add, the nature of creativity.
Creativity in creating art.
Creativity in marketing art.
Typically, each team spends the first minutes of their precious time orienting themselves to the task. They talk about how the structure will look. They also jockey for position and rank amongst the team (I always say in any band, somebody has to be John, somebody has to be Paul, somebody has to be George, and somebody has to be Ringo…but I digress).
Then the group begins planning, organizing, and they lay out the spaghetti.
Next, the group will spend the majority of their time assembling the sticks into ever-growing structures and finally, as the clock is winding down, somebody grabs the marshmallow and gingerly puts it on top; Ta-Da!
Then they stand back and admire their work, but what mostly happens is the “Ta-Da” moment turns into an “Uh-Oh” as the weight of the marshmallow buckles the poorly designed structure and it collapses.
They could try to do it again, but they’re out of time.
What’s interesting is that the same groups have more “Uh-Oh” moments than others.
The group that consistently performs the worst are recent graduates of business school.
The group that consistently has more “Ta-Da” moments during these experiments are recent graduates of Kindergarten.
Even more compelling is not only do these 5-year-olds constantly produce the tallest reliable structures, they also produce the most creatively interesting structures.
Whoa! You must be asking yourself, why?
There are a few reasons. The first is that none of the 5-year-olds spend any time trying to be CEO of Spaghetti Inc., they don’t jockey for power and prestige amongst the group.
That’s a gripping statistic all by itself. The Kindergarteners don’t overthink the project or the social structure within the group, they just get down the business of making cool stuff!
What’s more enthralling is that business students are trained to find the single right plan and then they execute on it. Therefore, they put the marshmallow on the top at the end. Then it fails but they’re out of time so it becomes a CRISIS!
What the Kindergarteners do differently is they start with the marshmallow. They are always putting the marshmallow on top, failing, then tweaking the prototype and attempting again. So, their “uneducated” process is to prototype-refine, prototype-refine, and so on until they run out of time. But by then they’ve figured out a couple ways NOT to do it and stumbled onto a successful design.
The Kindergartener’s process supplies instant feedback about what works and what doesn’t work and they adjust accordingly.
They learn from the previous failures.
Kindergarteners regularly outperformed groups of business school graduates, lawyers, and CEO’s of fortune 50 companies. The only group that habitually beat the kids were architects and engineers.
Even more interesting is that the CEO’s performance was greatly improved if an executive administrator was added into the mix. This was because the Executive admins have special skills of facilitation. They manage the process.
Ask yourself how educated and how effective you are on managing different processes in your career. If you’re lacking GET HELP.
I think some of you behave like business school graduates with regards to creating your art. You’ve been taught to do that, so you must unlearn it. JUST DO IT. Just keep writing and tinkering until you start to create something that works. This approach will also help you with the occasional bouts of apathy or writer’s block as well. Set aside some time to be creative and then…create!
Not for nothing, this is how John Lennon and Paul McCartney honed their songwriting skills. Admittedly, their first 50-150 songs (depending on the interview you read) were complete rubbish.
Most of you behave like business school graduates when it comes to marketing your music. In this case, society and the inaccurate little stories you tell yourselves about marketing are the “education” that is crippling your performances.
Because your (understandable) negative feelings and reactions to poor marketing or the idea of marketing are so strong, you choose not to learn about marketing. It’s easier to tell yourself that someone will discover you and they’ll take care of necessary “finding your audience” part of the equation.
I wanted to share this TED Talk with you because marketing for each artist is always unique. Fans often react to attributes we weren’t thinking about when we market our artists here at Daredevil Production.
Thus, with your marketing, you should expect a boatload of failure just like the Kindergarteners.
Refine your failed approach, try something new, and repeat.
This is the formula for success with marketing your music which allows you to connect with your audience.
Do you see how it’s just like writing a song? “Well, that didn’t work, would it be better if we did this?”
The market reality is that MOST artists either choose not to market or they market their music poorly.
We don’t see, hear, or talk anything about the artists who choose not to market, do we?
Read that one more time and let it sink in.
What’s more concerning is that, as humans, we predictably react depressingly to the artist that have crappy marketing techniques.
Again, MOST artists (and labels) don’t know what they’re doing online so it’s freaking EVERYWHERE we turn!
This barrage of noise and negative anti-marketing-matter creep into our psyches and we subconsciously develop an aversion towards marketing.
Marketing makes us sick.
But the secret lies in the fact that the artists who can identify this dynamic within themselves and begin to shamelessly prototype different marketing approaches will TOWER over their competition. They’ll dominate quickly as well.
It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but it isn’t rocket science either. It’s just work.
You’ll figure it out if you just have the courage and scientific approach of a Kindergartener.
This isn’t the old record business where a failure would ruin your career (Think Billy Squier’s “Rock Me Tonight” video) because it was broadcast to a huge audience.
No, this is the new music business. A failure means NOBODY SAW IT so you’re right where you started; undiscoverable. No blood no foul.
Now, the question is, are you smarter than a Kindergartener?
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