Sound Strategies: "If InterContinental were a sound..." | EABIS: Experiential Learning Conference


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These slides give an abbreviated case study of the work Sound Strategies undertook with InterContinental Hotels. The presentation was given in Pecha Kucha style. (Berlin. Nov 2010)

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  • I used to be in the London Symphony Orchestra…but now I’m not… I still perform, but also work for people like these….often with music We are all seduced by music, and its qualities are universal. Let’s put that to the test…ready…(Audience participation: ‘Shave and a Haircut’) Everyone around the world seems to know this…but they don’t know how
  • I’m going to talk about two aspects of music: orchestras…and seduction…and this is not about orchestral touring! Every society is seduced by its own music. Anthropologists tell us the relationship goes back some 2 million years It is quite extraordinary how hot-wired we are for musical experience
  • But with these experiences come some false seductions The conductor is in complete control of everything that goes on on stage You have to be musically gifted to get benefit from musical activities The music business, and the business of making music are the same thing
  • These misconceptions arise, I believe, from the way in which we make contact with the Arts in general. We are drawn more to their obvious manifestation rather than what lies beneath the surface. These hidden processes are significant and can bring additional value to the corporate offering.
  • Understanding them however, means getting to grips with them…practically That’s a challenge particularly if you think it is only special people with special talents who can participate. Working between different cultures too brings a different set of challenges, particularly when there is a contrast in the philosophical approach to the Arts
  • One model we use to help in these situations is derived from the way in which symphony orchestras function. There are four elements, although not necessarily in this order: The articulation and sharing of goals The provision or development of appropriate tools The acquisition and maintenance of skills The facilitation of sustainable relationships
  • The Goals of an orchestra are clearly defined.   The score gives a focused sense of common purpose…the performance…and it’s prepared and delivered within a specific time frame via a process of discussion and negotiation…the rehearsals.
  • Tools are highly specialised and demands can be quite idiosyncratic.   This applies not only to the instruments, but the chairs, the layout of the stage, and even the design of the clothes that are worn.
  • Skills are not just about playing one’s instrument well. That’s a given and it requires constant maintenance.   Skills include the ability to work as an ensemble, to evaluate situations and adapt instantly, to have the stamina to project to the back of the auditorium, to maintain focus, to be creative,   and above all, to know how to listen…and what to.
  • Relationships between performers are both intimate and subtle. Sometimes a performer must stand out. But in the main they have a supportive role and for this, listening skills are paramount.   These four elements are fundamental to successful performance irrespective of the contributions of the ‘chief executive’ on the rostrum.   So how does this relate to corporate performance?
  • I am going to talk about one of our case histories.   It details the development of a small strategic re-branding exercise from one simple but crucial music-based workshop into part of a global brand re-positioning initiative.   The organisation was the InterContinental Hotels Group
  • The initial brief seemed simple.   It proposed business advantages to building relationships with guests through the expeditious use of music, particularly in bars and restaurants.   However the goals soon changed. The project became much more extensive and involved us in the design of their new brand strategy, staff engagement programmes, media relations, and even hotel design.   The first point of seduction for IHG however was the music workshop.
  • So… early one Monday morning there we were… standing with the rest of the global brand team in Abbey Road Studios,   the musical home of Star Wars…and the Beetles…just …Imagine!   The goal was to travel back to music’s fundamentals and develop a shared articulation of how they might relate to the brand.  
  • The tools were a wide range of instruments, recording facilities, and our own skills as musicians and facilitators.   Eventually, we were to create number of dedicated web-based tools for global rollout in staff engagement and advocacy programmes.
  • The workshop helped surface the latent musical and evaluative skills of the participants… it also broadened their curiosity and scope of interest.   At its core was a matrix of practical music-making activities using a proven methodology we have applied to other brand teams…   Eventually this experience was condensed for delivery to general managers and sales directors world-wide.  
  • The Relationships between team members became reinvigorated creating a cohesive impetus which resonated throughout the programme and the organisation…   … in fact it was said much later that this was the only initiative with no obvious return on investment that produced such a high percentage of buy-in across the organisation.
  • And this was the sort of feedback that emerged.   As you can see…comments not just about music, but about the brand focus and even management practice. Working with this music-based lens produced a range of deeper insights and this is not the first time we have seen this happen.
  • You can find more details in these documents. One is a case history, and the other a special teaching paper for the hospitality industry. The first proposes how the Arts can be used as something of a Trojan horse to get to other levels of learning.   I believe they document the real benefits of using these alternative but complimentary disciplines particularly as the business paradigm swings towards authentically sustainable relationships and better integrated CSR programmes.
  • Our work with InterContinental finished about 18 months ago   … and in preparation for this talk I went back to them to gather the necessary permissions.   This Email arrived by way of response. The programme is still active…and the Abbey Road experience now seems to have a very long tail indeed.
  • And to close…the conductor Pierre Boulez said he considered the orchestra ‘an ensemble of possibilities’. I don’t think he realised quite how far-reaching these possibilities could stretch.   And If you would like to find out more about how this method can work for your organisation, you can continue the seduction by contacting me here.
  • Sound Strategies: "If InterContinental were a sound..." | EABIS: Experiential Learning Conference

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    13. 17. <ul><ul><li>“ Music plays a more powerful role than I could have ever imagined” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ It made us re-examine the brand , and showed how important it was to understand this element of our business better” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ It taught me how I had to leave room for other peoples creativity ” </li></ul></ul>
    14. 18. “ If InterContinental were a sound…what would it be?” “ A ‘sound strategy’ for InterContinental Hotels”
    15. 19. &quot;I was in the InterContinental Sydney yesterday… they had just launched their sound programme... 3 years on and it keeps on growing!” Vice President - Brand Delivery, IHG
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