During a recent lunch and learn presented by the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Laval, I had the opportunity to step into the shoes of a maestro. Alain Trudel, orchestral conductor and artistic director of the Orchestre symphonique de Laval, was there to talk to the Laval business community about the life of an orchestral conductor.

Alain Trudel painted a fascinating portrait of strong, determined yet flexible leadership regarding his various activities consisting in the selection of musical work, recruitment, performance and funding.

When he talked about his work dedicated to directing the orchestra, maestro Trudel took me on an intriguing track: how to get musicians not to play with the focus on not making mistakes. Of course, Quebec has the reputation to train and attract very talented musicians who are mastering their instruments perfectly. They are trained to play flawlessly. Why would we want them to be in a different state of mind? Furthermore, during classical concerts, the audience expects a flawless performance, don’t they?

In fact, the maestro confessed that, when musicians play so as not to make mistakes, even the uninitiated feels the lack of conviction or passion. A flawless performance is then ordinary. When playing so as not to make any mistakes, we place additional stress, which reduces inspiration. And inspiration is what gives room to outstanding performances.

According to the maestro, the secret lies in repetitions. That is when, as the conductor, he gets the musicians to take risks, to share their points of view, to explore nuances, to make mistakes and learnings in order to give shape to their future public performance. Repetition is a playground… seriously!

How can this be transposed into the business world? How do we create repetition opportunities where errors and experimentations are welcome? Where and when do we entitle our teams to make mistakes?

While any product, project, sprint, iteration, retrospective, meeting and deployment must contain no risks, how can we let our people explore new approaches? Then, when the time comes, they will be able to express their full talent.

Room for error is now part of the new organizational virtues (and who opposes virtue?). I see and hear all management and innovation gurus tout its benefits. However, in organizations, I don’t see a lot of time formally dedicated to repetitions as a learning resource. It is not easy to do, I agree. Risks and visibility are high and time is precious (and so is money).

Now, I would like to propose that one of the leaders’ roles be to create safe places where it is possible to play with the rules, to do things differently, with impunity. How can we create these places and make them visible to all? How will you do it tomorrow?

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Daniel Leclair

Seasoned executive with 25 years of experience in IT and operations in a diversity of sectors, Daniel started out as an industrial engineer with a keen interest for technology, and for early incarnations of the Lean approach and its deployment in a North American context. He then joined a fast-growing consulting services company where he was involved in software development, systems integration, management of consulting services, international business development and corporate strategy. In 2001, he leaped into entrepreneurship and started exploring Agile approaches with a firm belief that it would help in delivering and recovering the large projects he had to manage. Daniel strongly believes that the solution to better manage our ever more complex world lies in the well-balanced development of human qualities.

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