Inspiration in a baton, a helmet, a sword …


In January I recommended to you a talk at Google’s Zeitgeist Conference that I had attended. It was by Itay Talgam, an Israeli conductor who asks us to see in the styles of the great conductors (Karajan, Kleiber, Muti, Bernstein…) the dos and don’ts of leadership, the ways to elicit or inhibit the creativity and collaboration of individuals in a group.

Talgam can make us see in a conductor’s manner of holding a baton our own experience as, or with, leaders.

He has now given essentially the same talk again at TED. (If I may observe: TED, Zeitgeist and Poptech, who are rivals, are essentially the same conference these days. As soon as a speaker does well in one, the other two pick him up too.)

So why would I recommend Talgam … again? Because his talk is so incredibly good! So watch all 20 minutes of it, below.

But I’d also like to make another point, one that might seem oblique. One thing I like about Talgam’s approach is that he draws from one area of life (orchestra music) and role (conductor) to inform another area of life (business) and role (boss).

In my very humble way, I try to do the same thing. When I think about writing, I like to think about painting–the way Rembrandt uses color so sparingly and thus effectively, for instance. I see in the highlights of a helmet the touches of good storytelling.

And in my forthcoming book, I take the story of Hannibal, Fabius and Scipio, whose role was commander and whose context was war–the sword, if you will–and I extend it to sex, science, business, sports, exploration, art, politics and intellect–and the ways we succeed and fail in them.

Sometimes, when I give my “elevator pitch” (ie, the book idea compressed into a sentence or two) I get blank stares. I imagine that Talgam does, too. But then I watch Talgam’s talk, and I leaf through my manuscript, and I realize that this … works!

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12 thoughts on “Inspiration in a baton, a helmet, a sword …

    • Oh no, at least two parts were funnier:

      “Never look at the trombones: It only encourages them.”

      “Bernstein’s face was suffering. Really … he was enjoying himself in a Jewish way…”

    • I got a chuckle from von Karajan’s comment about coming in “when you can’t stand it.” I used to have a boss who would just stare at you until you couldn’t stand it and had to say something, which he then would berate you mercilessly for saying.

  1. The TED presentations are an inspiration in the face of what the US DoD calls, “death by Power Point.” I wish I had the courage to give a 20 minute talk with three slides. As I speak, I fight to avoid saying everything I can think of so that my audience will like me better and NOT (ironically) reveal me for the fraud that I am. One must slay his darlings before they ever leave the brain.

    By the way, I’ll be working product placements (e.g., Power Point, by Microsoft) into my comments for the next two months. I’m trying to pick up some money for Christmas (at Kohl’s!).

    • That’s a good point, I think as I sit here drinking Newman’s Own coffee blend, made in my Keurig machine, and gaze at my Mac Book to read your WordPress-hosted comment, Mr Crotchety.

  2. Fascinating presentation, particularly the last two minutes of it with Bernstein.

    Regarding Karajan and his famous eyes-shut conducting style, Karajan once said of it:

    “…….I want to see the music stretched out before me. And I am much more with the musicians if I have my eyes shut. I feel it if someone is nervous about their entry or someone is short of breath in a long passage, and I can help them – my hand which is trained by long experience, will respond and accelerate. I never know what my hands do at the time, but the next day, a player will come and say: ‘How did you know that I was nervous or short of breath at that particular passage?’ I can never answer that………I just feel it…….”.

    Very New Agey.

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