In Media

8 Lessons I Learned at Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp 

How You Can Apply It to Your Teams

Part 1 – Collaboration


I just finished 38 years in the corporate world with the last 25 leading 9 different meaningful pieces of work.  So, I have a point of view what the corporate world is all about.

As I entered this 4-day immersion called “Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp” I was intrigued to see how the incredibly creative culture of Rock and Roll would mesh with the structured, disciplined and measured culture of the corporate world.  I was listening and watching for things I could learn and share with those of us from the corporate world.

This is the first of 8 articles I will share that highlights what I observed and some insights for corporate leaders.

Lesson: Playing with a Band is a Highly Collaborative Process. 

All of us in the corporate world drop the word “collaborative”around describing the work we do all the time.  I have lead many teams and described them as highly collaborative.  This camp re-defined the word for me. 

Let me describe the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp process… 

1.    You check-in on a Thursday afternoon and grab a jam session with one or two of about 12-14 counselors (more on these incredible musicians later)

2.    You select 1 of 12 rooms to enter and people quickly learn to jam with one another.  After a while, you may choose to leave, select another room, and the process starts over again.  This happens for a couple of hours.  

3.    Everyone breaks for dinner and then each person is assigned a counselor and put in a band.  

4.    Your band has less than 18 hours to decide on a song, learn it, and play with Nancy Wilson of Heart, on stage, with an audience, while its being recorded.

Insight: I have been on corporate teams that might have taken a week to decide the song to play much less learn it and play it.  We might have taken a month to decide the venue to play it. The corporate world lets “collaboration” go on too long.  

5.    The next day, your band will select another song to play with Chris Layton the drummer from Stevie Ray Vaughn’s band. Rest in peace SRV, (Chris has also played with many accomplished bands)

6.    That same night your band will play a couple of songs at Reggie’s in downtown Chicago.

7.    On the last day, your band will play yet another song with the legendary Buddy Guy at his club in Chicago.  The term legendary gets tossed around too frequently in my opinion but Buddy Guy, this guy is a legend.  What an experience!

8.    The Grand Finale, culmination of all your hard work, is later that same evening, each band plays 2-3 songs on stage, live broadcast with their Counselor.

In summary, you meet 6-7 people for the first time on a Thursday evening, together you decide on a song to play in 18 hours, and start thinking about the next handful of songs you must play with big name talent over the next 3 days, and what role everyone in the band must have with each other.  

Insight: Everyone has an important role. The guitarists can’t play over the vocalists, the drummer has to keep the beat, the bass lays down the low, the harmonica player knows when to take their solo, as do all the other band members.  If one of the band members flies out of formation the whole things turns sour.

Guess what?  We figured it out.  

Was it perfect? No.  

Was it good? Most people think so.  

Did it accomplish the goal of having a great time with some legends in the music business?  Yes, in fact it over-delivered for everyone.

Insight: As I reflect back on the hundreds of projects I lead or was a part of, at the company I worked for and also with other suppliers and dozens of customers, in the corporate world, we take too long to decide and get things done.

In Corporate America we just take too long. It’s probably a combination of not being clear on the deliverable (You will be playing with Nancy Wilson in 18 hours) or the role of each team member (You are going to play rhythm guitar, not lead and not sing, and don’t bring it up again) or the leader not taking the lead (Our leader was Chip Z. Nuff – he took the lead, no question about it and he made the decision once he had everyone’s input and his assessment of the talent) Or maybe it was the simple fact that we had a quick deadline? 18 hours that’s it.  We didn’t have the luxury of pushing it back to the next team meeting, next month.

Perhaps in Corporate America we need to get more performance, in less time. We need a lot more progress and a lot less perfection.  We should be more clear and direct, but fair. Be less tolerant of people flying out of formation because they don’t like the solution. And we should not give people or teams a long time to figure it out.  They are not going to get that much smarter and they should have the courage to make the decision and implement it.  If it starts to veer off course, fix it.

Several more articles to follow over the next few weeks…

Thanks to David Fishof, CEO of Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp, for a one-of-a-kind experience.

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment