Friday, May 23, 2008

Blending the notes

At my daughter's baccalaureate last night, a minister (who's the father of twin classmates) gave a sermon. Fast forwarding through the tear-jerker parts about what it's like to be a parent on the eve of high school graduation, he gave an analogy to a story he read.

Jazz great Wynton Marsalis was playing trumpet in a little bar in NYC - a ballad from the thirties - and hitting emotive notes reflecting the song's title. The last two notes, not yet played, were disrupted by a cell phone ringtone in the audience. The man rushed out to answer a call, and it appeared to ruin the moment. Instead Wynton started playing the notes in the ringtone over and over, riffing on them, and then finally perfectly merging them into the last notes to the song that had been interrupted. He got a standing ovation.

The minister told the students there would be many times in their lives they would be interrupted, but they need to play on.

It reminded me of a situation at a meeting where someone was really angry about a decision and arrived at a meeting furious, wanting to address the group .... and did. He was the ringtone. It could have been considered an interruption, but rather was considered a tone that needed to be heard, and then incorporated into the final version of the decisions. Sometimes we just play on. Other times we blend old music, with new sources of music, and hope the outcome can lead to a standing ovation. Disruptions can be healthy for organizations.

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