What the Grammys Can Teach You about Collaboration

Being a music geek for most of my life, I have always made the annual Grammy Awards a required viewing experience.  It’s exciting for me to anticipate the performances and hope for my favorites. I used to obsess over the nominations; I would wonder how some artists got snubbed while others became favorites of the night. But as a more mature music fan, I have a new perspective on the Grammys, especially the lessons that the Grammys can teach brands about creating an audience experience. After watching the 56th Annual Grammy Awards January 26, I believe Grammys Executive Producer Ken Ehrlich and production team offer the business world a lesson in the value of collaboration.

I first got a glimpse of the power of collaboration in 2000, when C.K. Prahalad and Venkatram Ramaswamy published “Co-Opting Customer Competence” in Harvard Business Review. Since then, many pundits have discussed how brands can collaborate and co-create with customers, partners and other stakeholders. Ironically the HBR article was published at about the same time that Carlos Santana’s Grammy-winning album Supernatural caught fire — remember how collaboration among multiple artists created all those hits from Supernatural? Similarly, the Grammys demonstrate the power of jointly creating content even when the customers don’t know to ask for it.

For instance, last night, for the first time, I watched the pre-telecast (hosted by a refreshing Cyndi Lauper) on Grammy.com and saw all of the lesser known awards and recipients. My underground favorite this year was Snarky Puppy’s “Something” featuring Lalah Hathaway.  This first-ever combination between Snarky Puppy and Hathaway won Best R&B Performance due to amazing musical prowess, an unreal vocal performance and healthy dose of humility — collaboration at its best.

The prime-time televised event is both a concert and an awards ceremony. Collaboration permeates the entire show — witness last night’s performances by Daft Punk, Pharrell, Nile Rodgers and Stevie Wonder; Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons; and Pink and Nate Ruess, for starters. At its best, collaboration helps artists reach new audiences and pushes the artists to create something better than what they could have done on their own. (And, yes, the Metallica/Lang Lang duo is stretching that lofty ideal a bit.) At a minimum, the process of working together and creating something new refreshes artist and causes them to think differently.  Working with other artists gets performers out of their own heads and forces them to adopt different perspectives. If everything goes well, the artists gain new markets, revenue streams and (potentially) fans who will enjoy and buy their stuff.  Isn’t that what we want for our businesses and relationships?

Consider your business: will collaboration with your peers and perhaps your customers improve your game, or will you ignore the opportunity? As our economy is fueled increasingly by collaboration, you can count on the opportunities to come your way. You and I need to be ready for them.

The Grammys did a nice job including me in the pre-event activities, such as the pre-telecast.  Maybe the Grammys will take the experience to the next level and develop a way for viewers and fans to help decide who will perform and collaborate at the 2015 Grammys.

This post was originally published on the One Smooth Stone blog on January 27, 2014. For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing bduffy@onesmoothstone.com


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