Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

The Nine Muses - Euterpe (Music) by Johann Heinrich Tischbein, 1782 (Wikimedia Commons - public domain)

"Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms." 

  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Left brain and right brain. Feeling and thinking. Creative and analytical.

These juxtapositions are supposedly antithetical. Or at least different enough to be considered on opposite ends of a spectrum.

But are they, really?

We know that we use a combination of both sides of our brains, even if one side may dominate (that pervasive myth of one versus the other has no basis in fact). There isn't a single one of us who thinks without feeling (excepting Mr. Spock — let's keep this in the present galaxy and timeframe). And even the most analytical among us has the ability to be creative.

It has always struck me that music is at the nexus of logic and emotion.

Music can be beautiful beyond words, evoking deep emotions, creating and conjuring memories without warning. And at the same time, it's structured, follows patterns, and in some ways is predictable.

Anyone who performs or studies music knows the truth in this. Music is mathematical and has a symmetry to it. Performers and conductors study and analyze scores to understand music.

Through this process, the music doesn't sit outside if their intellect or sphere of knowledge; it is subsumed into their intellect. In fact, intelligence and music aptitude are closely linked.

"Music heard so deeply 
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music 
While the music lasts." 
— T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

And yet, in most schools, arts and sciences are considered separately when they ought to be interconnected. Arts programs are cut when budgets are tight.

When you're learning music, you're using every part of your brain: auditory, visual, memory, analytical, from the brain stem to the frontal lobe. It is all-encompassing.

It should be no surprise that music inspired great thinkers like Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. Schopenhauer regarded music as the “universal language” more necessary and infallible than any of the other arts because it speaks directly to the human being.

The connection to business and leadership

The arts contribute to the culture of society, but they're not separate from culture — they're intertwined. You can't have society without culture, and culture needs a society in which to thrive.

When it comes to business, functions of creativity and analytics are similarly intertwined. While purists may disagree, there's analytics in creativity and creativity in analytics.

The best designers and copywriters know that what they create must ultimately meet the needs of brand and product managers, and even the most brilliantly crafted campaigns must deliver the numbers.

And analytics wizards who pore over formulae and algorithms must have a creative side as they read spreadsheets like musical scores and make the figures spring to life to create a symphony of insights.

The nexus of creative and analytics is strategy.

Like culture and society, the culture of an organization is inextricably tied to its strategy. Each allows the other to flourish.

Musical geniuses like Beethoven and Mozart were innovators and servant leaders. They pushed the boundaries of music and introduced new forms and structures that are now commonplace.

If they had been independently wealthy, they would have created music for its own sake, but they needed patrons to subsidize their works. They were able to practice their art, but only through subservience.

And lest we think their bodies of work entirely original, Antonín Dvořák reminds us:
"All of the great musicians have borrowed from the songs of the common people."

As you consider the strategy and culture within your organization, consider what kind of a servant leader you are, how you're innovating, and how you're inspiring it and measuring it.

Allow yourself to be inspired by things that surround you, from employees to other brands, from spreadsheets to music. Just as music becomes part of the intellect, these things will naturally flow into your strategy.

Then perhaps your strategy and culture will become like Eliot's "music heard so deeply" — it will simply be who you are.

Special thanks to Tamsen Webster for the study about music and intelligence. Check out her Red Thread newsletter for thought-provoking tips and links.

This originally appeared in the December 18 issue of the Timeless & Timely newsletter, with additional links, stories, recommendations, and more. Subscribe to be sure you don't miss a thing.