The Music Paradigm – Organizational Learning

Dr. Relly Nadler
: Welcome to Leadership Development News, profiles and practices of top performers. I’m Dr. Relly Nadler and we have my esteemed host, Dr. Cathy Greenberg here. We are your leadership development coaches. Between Cathy and I we have helped thousands of leaders and executives perform in the top 10%.

Today is going to be a very unique show. We are going to feature Roger Nierenberg. After a distinguishing career at the helm of two American Orchestras, Roger is now emerging as a creative force for innovation in the presentation of symphonic music. Roger created the highly successful experiential learning event called The Music Paradigm. We will have him speak about that. Both Cathy and I have been involved in it, so we have experienced it.

This is where an orchestra is used as a metaphor for a dynamic organization. On today’s show, we will find out how Roger came up with this outstanding and highly successful program that he has used with corporations all over and how you too can enjoy his innovative ideas in organizational learning.

Cathy Greenberg: I’m very excited to have Roger Nierenberg on the show today and we are going to talk about how we can use the idea of an orchestra verses something like a sports team to help companies truly engage organizational learning.

We are very happy today to bring to you, live, a terrific human being who has figured out an innovative way to really bring music to life in organizations as an example of organizational learning.

For 14 years, Roger led the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra in Florida. He actually succeeded in building one of the great concert halls in America. I think, if you ask Roger, the pinnacle of his career in Jacksonville was the orchestra’s appearance in the Carnegie Hall Festival of American Orchestras. Also during his tenure with the Stanford Symphony in Connecticut, the orchestra developed the reputation as one of the finest in New England.

Roger had conducted many of America’s most distinguished orchestras and opera companies and has performed at some of the world’s most prestigious music festivals. His recording with the London Philharmonic Orchestra can also be found on Sony Classical records.

I think you’ll agree when you hear Roger today that he has really distinguished himself in creating one of the most highly successful experiential learning events now known to us as the Music Paradigm. He started that in 1995. We are going to talk to Roger about how he created this event.

This is an event where an orchestra is used as a metaphor for a dynamic organization. We are going to talk more about that today.

He actually has created an event where executives are seated among musicians. Then Roger leads a series of exercises, carefully crafted to address the sponsoring organizations specific issues. The Music Paradigm provides a creative framework for rethinking leadership styles, philosophies, and effectiveness.

Since it’s inception, the Music Paradigm sessions have been held for more than 150 major companies, leading financial institutions, and global consulting firms throughout the US, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and it’s been done with over 70 different orchestras.

It has been the subject of reports on ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, and of course, it was the sole feature of an hour-long broadcast on the BBC program.

We are delighted to have Roger with us today and both Relly and I have experienced the magic of Roberg Nierenberg’s program through the genius of companies like Linkage Leadership Summits. I can’t tell you how thrilled we are to have you. Roger, welcome to the show.

Roger Nierenberg: Hi.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Roger, why don’t we start with just a little bit about yourself and how you came to work in the field of music and now organizational development?

Roger Nierenberg: Well, I was one of these people who, as a child, heard the voice of music, you might say. I knew that that was what I wanted my life to be about. I started playing in orchestras when I was about nine years old, but like most of my schoolmates, but I started writing music around then.

My first ambition was to be a composer. And indeed, I studied with Elie Siegmeister, a great American composer who’s 100th birthday is being celebrated this week.

I found playing in an orchestra just so incredibly thrilling that I really wanted to conduct. That was eventually the profession that I pursued. Most of my professional life has been in conducting orchestras and operas.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Can you say a little bit about how that merged into the organizational development field and maybe first, how many years did you actually conduct before you had this I guess it was a brainstorm at some point to say how do I link that into what goes on in organizations.

Roger Nierenberg: Well maybe about 20 years before anybody really looked at me at all for any kind of leadership development work. It was quite an accident.

I knew that there were a lot of people to whom music did not speak. I was looking for a way to bring them inside of the experiences I had.

It was kind of just this series of accidents that brought me to, there was a scent that I smelled. There was something, an opportunity, and without really knowing what I was doing, I invented this kind of experiential learning that I called The Music Paradigm, eventually, which gave power to all of the things that I had learned as a conductor. Because, as a conductor, you are in an intense leadership position and you get very strong and immediate feedback when you make a leadership mistake, you really feel it bite you. When you make good leadership decisions you feel the response in the sound of the orchestra.

Over the course of doing that for 20 years and making lots of mistakes and then having moments of success, eventually I began to see that by giving people an insider view on what really goes on in an orchestra that they can actually learn a great deal about themselves and their role in their organization and leadership in many different levels.

It was not really what I was pursuing but once I had invented this, then business organizations began to find a lot of value in it. That really surprised me. The more I did it, the more I customized it for each organization, the more I saw how powerful it was for my clients.

Dr. Relly Nadler: You say that kind of happened by accident. How did that happen? Did someone suggest it to you, did you suggest it to someone else? How did that evolve?

Roger Nierenberg: Well, I think there were many things that went into it, but at one point, one of the organizations that supported the Stanford Symphony and had heard me give a lot of sort of pre-concert talk, they were having a business meeting and they wanted to me to come and talk about teamwork amongst musicians. I said, well I would be happy to do that provided that I was briefed about exactly what the meeting was about and where was I fitting in.

This was an organization that was undergoing a change in its business model from being essentially a product-oriented structure to a client-oriented structure. So everybody’s job was going to be redefined.

They invited me to come and speak but once I learned what their issue was, I could see that speaking wasn’t going to be as powerful as demonstrating. I saw that really, in a way, what they needed to understand is how chamber music works. I came with a string quartet and I did a demonstration of how the teams in a chamber ensemble worked together. They all have to know the whole piece even those each is playing its own part.

After that, when I saw what an impact that had, I was invited by a real visionary on the Jacksonville Symphony board, a man named Paul Khan, to do it for his organization. Then when we did it with a whole orchestra, it was very impactful. Even I was really astonished.

It was Paul who suggested to me that I could take this on the road. I could do this for a lot of organizations. Within a year or two of that moment, I was actually doing it for high-level meetings, CEOs, annual meetings for Fortune 100 corporations. When I saw the feedback from that, that was when I began to realize that this was something really important.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: So one of the people it sounds like you have been influenced by in terms of your thinking on the role of your artistry and teaching leadership, has been this gentleman who is a board member, Paul Khan. Can you talk a little bit more about who else may have been influential in your thinking?

Roger Nierenberg: Well, there is the conductor, Carlos Kliver who is an incredible, great master. I never knew him but I had the privilege of seeing him conduct a couple of times. I have many friends in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra who talked about what it was like. The way he conducted taught me a great deal about leadership.

Then there are some brilliant business leaders that I came in contact with. I collaborated with the consultants from Delta Consulting, which has changed its identity a number of times since then.

Then with many people from the Boston Consulting Group, and one person, in particular, a man named Stewart Blender who was in charge of the supply chain at Lever Brothers, and that was a client who was a brilliant tactician.

There were many thinkers from whom I learned and whose ideas I incorporated as this thing began to grow.

Listen the how the Music Paradigm works, above.


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