Business Insights From the World of Opera

Business insights can come from anywhere, so let’s take a look at what business can learn from the world of opera.

I recently had the opportunity to  watch an opera master class conducted by Matthew Polenzani, a world-renowned tenor and thoroughly fascinating instructor and speaker. The students performing were advanced, with strong voices and significant training. In the course of a few minutes, with specific recommendations and guidance, each student raised their interpretation significantly and visibly to a new level of excellence.

So how was this accomplished, and what are the business lessons to be learned?

Business Insights – Via the Operatic Stage:

  1. Allow space. In almost every case, when performing an opera duet or other group piece, students were advised to keep distance between each other. The impact was twofold. The more open arrangement better dominated the space, and dynamic opportunities expanded. The business takeaway? Give space to your prospects, customers and staff. Hovering is claustrophobic and distracting. Allow room both physical and emotional, for others to interact, and give yourself room to master the space you occupy.
  2. Details are critical.The sound of a single vowel, and the expression of a single consonant were repeatedly emphasized. One sound, whether harsh or melodic, distinct or soft, had the power to significantly change the impact of a whole passage. In business, details are equally critical. A misspelled word on a proposal can send it to the reject pile; one casual comment can unleash an avalanche off misunderstanding and trouble.
  3. You have to take advice in order to grow. The students in the master class didn’t get there by being dismissive of instruction. Each suggestion was immediately incorporated in their performance. None of us can hear or see ourselves accurately. In business, find a mentor, or peer advisory group, or coach, to see where you can improve performance.
  4. Be specific. The guidance given was precise and focused. Comments such as “Face forward here; don’t gesture until this line,” followed by the rationale,  made an immediate and significant difference in performance. Specificity has the same effect in business. Be specific, give a rationale, and accelerate progress.
  5. Be engaged; evoke emotion. The moments in which the students were totally immersed in the roles they were portraying were visceral. The audience was drawn in, responding with empathy and engagement. Be committed to your business. Radiate with genuine enthusiasm and passion. Give customers the opportunity to respond emotionally, see your vision, and patronize your business.

Opera engages, resonates. and connects with its audience. It is the product of hundreds of thousands of hours, from hundreds of individuals, each striving to master the smallest details. Opera requires commitment; your business demands the same. Make a commitment to excellence. Work diligently on the smallest details. Be open to instruction. Utilize space. And make a dramatic impact on your marketplace and customers.

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