In a band, should all decisions be unanimous?

The Beatles jamming

Definitely not. Too hard to have full consensus across everything, and that blocks flow if every idea has to be authorised. Disagree and commit, as they say. Allow players to bring what they're good at to the table. It just needs to be acknowledged that the big thing in creative work is: just because you fall in love with an idea, doesn't mean it's the right idea right now. One can always keep ideas in one's trick bag for later. "Kill your darlings" as writers say.

How this extends across the group's awareness probably determines the success of a band. It allows players to say "cool!" in unison (or indeed say "huh I don't get it?") and then be able to sleep on it, work through the intuitions and reasons together. It can be less a decision process than a generative process! Give it 5 minutes, riff on it, see what happens with the mutation that occurs… Are the players able to be open to this? Can the initiator be humble enough to understand that this process of prototyping makes an idea real, even if it wasn't what she was exactly thinking of? Can they stick at it together when all roads seem to hit deadends? Who can gesture, kindly, as to what's missing?

Being humble together with ideas is underrated. Further points if the team can keep ideas as secrets for later use — not for competitive reasons, but because the group understands that ideas must have a right time, and a right people, and they can meanwhile retain them as in-jokes — that's the group for me. I'd bank on Ad Roc still having old loops ready to use but he won't until he jams with the right friend…

Group roles have to find their rhythms. A ringleader is important. But they may not be the decision-maker, or they may only be ring-leader for in-jokes, but not about harmonics. And who is the glue across the personalities? Who freely gives away the energy that allows the band as a whole to get shit done? Who is decisive? Who is always reticent to decide, but is able to leave open options until the idea mutate to their best forms? Who has a track record of being just-in-time? If everyone is moving the needle across their mandate and there is mutual admiration, then the aggregation of personalities will start to become more than the individual contributions. Learning how to bend like a palm tree on disagreements means knowing oneself: agree to disagree — yet keep the possibility open of being wrong or patiently articulate the missed angle with tough respect — and then commit to forward motion. I can attest to that after 12 years of marriage.

If you wish to know more of what this kind of scenius behaviour is like, I highly recommend all 9 hours of The Beatles: Get Back documentary. They're incredibly funny, affectionate and evidently had so much fun in their camaraderie together, playing each-other off for laughs, being ridiculous, twisting not-good-enough with a turn of phrase back at themselves, halting mid-song in self-depreciation for another to say "t'weren't really bad, George". Never once a terse word.

The wise crack, the dance, the riff, the joke, the funny face; all tools for scenius. How often do you see them in action in your place of work?

Thanks to my friend Davey, who asked the question. Got a question? Send it on down!