Teaming lessons from Spotify





I love my music, and I love Spotify! Everything I could want musically, accessible to me all the time – a far throw from listening to the radio, waiting for my favourite song and then pressing play+record to capture it on my mixed tape (if you are over 30 I’m sure you know what I am talking about)!


Just the other day I was in the gym and pressed a song to play, only for me to then let Spotify to take me on a journey. Suddenly I discovered all sorts of new artists and new songs. Then I stopped in my tracks (hopped off the treadmill) when I heard Matt Kearney’s Wanted Man, because it is identical to Ed Sheeran’s What do I know. Then I hear The Parlotones’ Colourful, which I immediately recognise to be identical to Come Undone by Robbie Williams. No, this is not some musical quiz, and yes it is common knowledge that most pop songs use the same, or similar, chord progressions and therefore sound similar - and we still listen to them. (P.S Go and have a listen, the similarities go beyond just the chord progression). The point here is about sameness.


Spotify has a great algorithm – one that works – that is why it does so well. It hears what you like and it takes you down that road of playing you songs that sound similar or fit into a similar genre. Some may say much like a leader of a team – he/she knows what works and keeps doing those same things – in the name of structure or routine. But there is a BUT! I actually like a whole array of music, and would love to have a bit of Coldplay interspersed with Kanye West, topped and tailed by the original Ed Sheeran stuff and Eminem. So could Spotify not recognise that, and allow me that wide array of songs? Could it realise I was in the gym and actually a bit of upbeat might be good and to stop playing me songs that all sound the same?


Now you may say it can, or that I should make my own playlist – but that is not the point of this piece. My point is that actually people need different things at different times. Context is everything, and sameness whilst creating familiarity for people can also create staleness. My thinking from leading teams, and working with many, is that we always need to be on the lookout for when the team needs something different – a new view, a different environment, a disruptor to come in (like Kanye at a Michael Buble concert) that may in fact take that team where it needs to go at that time.



Context is everything! The awareness to pick up on team’s needs and be creative with how you lead it, is what will allow for sustained success. Have your structure, have your routines, but don’t mindlessly wander through time just ‘listening to the same type of music’ because you may never quite reach the heights you could reach. What the team requires is what the team must get from its leadership. So be aware of that all of the time, be prepared to offer different styles at different times so that you can unlock the best out of your team. You needn't be exactly like Spotify!