I’m working on a talk that I’m giving next Monday morning, November 19 at the Schulich Executive Education Centre at the TD Centre. The talk is about 21st-century hiring, and how it differs from how we’ve been thinking about, and acting on, hiring over the past 50 years or so. I talk about how the business “operating system” has so fundamentally changed from then until now that everything we do as managers must also change for enterprises to survive and thrive. It’s more than simply new techniques and tools. It involves a completely different way to think about the issues and challenges of management specifically and organizations in general. (If you’re interested in some of the things I do when I’m not teaching salsa, you can register here to attend the talk. There’s no charge and breakfast will be served. The Program Director for the Master’s Certificate in Organization Development describes the program at 8:30. I follow at 9:00.)
For many people, dancing is analogously rooted in past practices. We learn certain patterns and combinations in class, and dutifully reproduce them on the social dance floor. Over the years, I have indeed seen individuals who repeat the same five or six moves over and over again. Now, if that person has great timing and connection, and more important, is having fun with partners who are also having fun—fantastic! But in the same way that we take older management practices and recombine them with more contemporary ideas for better effect, the same holds true for our dancing.
It is great, contemporary practice to take old ideas and modify them slightly to create an entirely new dance effect. Is it always the case that you come out of a hammerlock, for instance, the same way? Are all cross-body leads necessarily led in exactly the same manner? How many different ways can you complete an inside travelling turn, and how many different follow-on moves can you think of in the moment of dance?
On one hand, it might seem that I’m suggesting simply building a large repertoire of rote moves from which you can mix and match. This in turn would seem to suggest spending a lot more time in studio learning all these variations. And certainly, there is value to having such a large, well-rehearsed repertoire available to you. There is, however, another, completely different way to think about social dancing. The best and most fun partners not only connect to their partner and the music; they more importantly respond to their partner and the music. They regard dance as a three-way conversation among themselves, their partner, and the music with each party contributing a portion of inspiration for any particular dance to a given tune. As I’ve said many times in class, they dance what the music tells them, and how their partner inspires them. Certainly, they build on the skills and knowledge that they learned with an instructor. But they take apart the various elements of an individual choreography, they listen and embody the music, and allow the music and their partner’s responsiveness to inspire what appears on the floor.
If you are truly and fully engaged, you would be hard-pressed to repeat a particular combination that just happened in the moment. What you would recognize is that you and your partner just pulled off something completely awesome, under the admiring eyes of all those who would…
See you on the dance floor.