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Keeping our back shop

No more blues graphic


A few weeks ago, with Édouard Rencker, we launched No More Blues, an anti-blues initiative inviting jazz musicians in the communication industry to participate in auditions on Sunday, January 9, for two concerts at Sunset Sunside on March 8 and 9, sponsored by Stratégies.

A few weeks ago, I teamed up with Edouard Rencker to launch No More Blues, an anti-morosity appeal inviting jazz musicians in the communications field to take part in auditions on Sunday 9 January for two concerts at the Sunset Sunside on 8 and 9 March, sponsored by Stratégies. On the day of the audition, as Covid took its toll, Edouard and I were worried we’d have to make do with a four-hands, which would have been nice, but a bit too bluesy. Fortunately, at the appointed hour, one by one, some of our fellow “com musicians” showed up to play.

This is exactly what we’d secretly been hoping for: that behind the well-known work titles – PR director, project manager, account manager, sales manager, purchasing manager, consultant (all taboo terms at the Sunside) – there would be a multitude of little-known talent. Eyes as bright as the brass of a sax, all of these No More Blues musicians undoubtedly had communication expertise, but there was something more… Everyone had evidently followed Michel de Montaigne’s advice:

“Man must keep a little back shop where he can be himself without reserve. In solitude alone can he know true freedom.”

More and more companies are encouraging their employees to engage in artistic pursuits. Société Générale is exemplary in this respect. You need to have experienced the “Playing for Philarmonie de Paris”* to truly gauge the impact of such a policy: incredible dynamism, people listening to one other, respect, musicality, commitment and rigour… Seeing the groups at the Sunside, Edouard and I felt this same positive vibe.

At both the Philarmonie and the Sunside, the audience asked themselves the same questions: How do they do it? How do they find the time? And do they (really) have a job? All valid questions in a work environment hypnotised by the “let’s focus” mindset. The era is all about expertise and expertise alone. There’s a willingness to weed out any “side business”. Work or escape. You can’t do both…
No wonder companies are searching for meaning when employees have no choice but to follow the cold, dry lodestar of efficiency, without a minute to explore other compass bearings.

At a time when rationality and data pervade all aspects of communications, we need to make sure we preserve the values and uniqueness of our professions: curiosity, a love of the arts and artists, the permeability between personal interests and professional life. Haven’t we all come back from a client lunch to tell our impatient teams: “We didn’t talk about work, we talked about something else”? If only creative types and consultants knew the extent to which confidently sharing that something else can broaden and develop a relationship. Professional value will never be solely about expertise in our field. You’ll always need to add a pinch of the personal, rich and nurtured. Of course, this can be a lifetime’s endeavour. But clients and partners are in no hurry. They will always be more moved by the swell of sensitivity, heart and soul than by progress towards meeting KPIs.

Let’s make sure our organisations encourage all those extra-curricular endeavours: learning to play an instrument, visiting exhibitions, taking photographs, devouring books, taking up painting, getting involved in an association… Whatever they may be. These parallel paths are an integral part of our communication function and should feature prominently in annual appraisals (it’s that time of year).

On 8 and 9 March, come and support the talents of “No More Blues” at the Sunside, which this year celebrates 40 years of jazz in Paris. You won’t get lost; when you come in, just go straight ahead, leave the bar on your left, and you’ll find us. The stage will be lit and the concert amazing… all at the back of the little back shop!

Denis Gancel

President, Conran Design Group and W Conran Design - PAR

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