A business professor in Spain wants to rock you. In a recent session for MBA alumni, Salvador López, marketing lecturer at ESADE Business School and author of the Spanish-language book ROCKvolución empresarial (Urano, June 2012), turned jam sessions into business lessons. He had students view film of live concerts and interviews with musicians (some of which he conducted for his radio show) to analyze, among other things, their use of technology, ability to form alliances with clients, whom they call fans, and outside- the-box thinking. With students, he discusses the history of Genesis and the finer points of the Beatles, U2, and Coldplay.
Now working on his first solo album, López wants aspiring executives to learn management techniques from rock ’n’ rollers. He’ll do anything to convey his passion for music and the lessons it teaches, even lead a crowd in Queen’s We Will Rock You. In fact, he is designing an entire executive education program on management and music. Recently, López waxed philosophical about the power music has to move people and shared some of the takeaways rock legends have offered on the world of business. Here are excerpts from the conversation:
What makes rock ’n’ roll stars good teachers for managers?
The world of music and musicians is a true source of knowledge and inspiration for organizations and managers. There are plenty of examples of innovation strategies, teamwork, leadership styles, adaptation to change, reinvention, getting out of the comfort zone, creative usage and adoption of new technologies, positive competitive strategies, co-creation, fan conversion, and, across all that, disruptive thinking.
What examples do you use to make the connection between business and music?
Forty years ago many music executives were trying to prevent fans from filming entire concerts or taking photos of musicians. But the Grateful Dead encouraged fans to do it and share their film and images with others. The result was that the group had to play in bigger and bigger venues. The Dead put fans in charge of its publicity, and it tried to create a positive alliance with clients instead of trying to fight them.
Which band is the best example for connecting business and music?
I would pick Pink Floyd if I had to choose one. Pink Floyd used emotions, technology, and out-of-the-box thinking. It was a good cocktail.
What have you taken from music and applied to business?
I’m working on my first album, 10 knots, which will be in English, Spanish, and Catalan, and I hope to release it in a couple of months. It’s a combination of styles, including blues, rock, pop, and gospel. I’m the singer-songwriter, and I play all the guitars and piano. I will make it free to download. I’m learning from other musicians that sharing your music for free can lead to fans coming to your shows or later ordering CDs.
Why should businesspeople pay attention to musicians?
Musicians use much more the right side of the brain—emotions, intuition, creativity, arts—and that is a fact extraordinarily interesting because, as Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve problems with the same mindset that created them.” OK, if we need a different mindset, I propose getting inspiration from a different angle: the way musicians think.