CBI: How can you inspire a team at a more mature company to dream, and, in the process, increase its creative output? How do you keep it fun?
JL: Injecting play into the process can be a big win. Progress isn’t always serious. In fact, our creative faculties perform better in supportive, fun, and, even, funny environments. If you want to jump-start innovation, take off the grumpy goggles, and get some laughter going.
CBI: What do you do to stay fresh and inspired?
JL: Playing jazz guitar does it for me. It never gets old, since most of the music is improvised—created, composed, as you go along. Music, for me, is a never-ending source of inspiration.
CBI: Would you suggest that club operators turn to their favorite music for inspiration?
JL: Club owners should do whatever inspires them. It could be music, art, sports, drama, nature—or anything else. They should go with whatever makes their heart thump. And, then, do more of it!
CBI: How else do you move the needle on your own personal-development gauge? You’ve observed that, “Professional athletes achieve at the highest levels by spending 90% of their time training, and 10% of their time performing.”
JL: Yeah, it’s something like that. I read constantly—at least 12 books a year, plus tons of magazines and blogs—and I listen to podcasts. But I also push myself to learn and improve daily by staying fresh, trying new things, and observing others. Physical activity is another critical key. I try to get in 30 minutes of exercise a day to keep my mind and body sharp.
The more you learn and train—the more you prosper.
CBI: What, in addition to attending IHRSA 2018, do you think club operators can do to keep sharp?
JL: They should make a point of regularly reviewing, and challenging, traditions and key assumptions. ... They also should carve out some time for raw creativity. If you think of creativity as a muscle, then, just like your biceps, it needs to be developed. Even two 15-minute creative bursts a week
can go a long way. These can take the form of music, brainstorming, doodling, asking questions, or any other form
of creative expression.
CBI: In your presentations, you’ve also made use of an Abraham Lincoln quote: “If I had eight hours to cut down a tree, I would spend six hours sharpening my saw.” Staff training is vital, but some regard it as a chore. How do you make it scintillating?
JL: Make it a game. Create challenges and competitions. Make it interactive and participatory. Get rid of the old model—one teacher in the front of the class with a chalkboard—and concentrate more on fresh, fun, and interactive exercises.
CBI: We understand that you’ve been a professional jazz guitarist since you were 13. What have you learned from that experience? And what do musicians have in common with entrepreneurs?
JL: I’ve learned that musicians relish taking creative risks—just like entrepreneurs. Both are inherently curious, constantly questioning the way that things are right now, and speculating about what might be. Both also engage in “improvisational thinking”—in real time—about what’s possible, rather than continuing to do things the way they’ve always been done.
Today, most of us really need to be able to innovate constantly in real time. The world is too complex and moving too fast to expect that an operating manual will carry the day. Instead, we need to be able to adapt quickly, and make decisions without any notes or rules in front of us.
Right now, the best leaders don’t enforce policies—they create guidelines and provide resources so that people can perform their particular art—which might mean anything from running a club, to being a lawyer, to constructing artisan furniture.
CBI: Coming back to music:
how can you make a company jazzy—funky, hip, vibrant, bold, flamboyant, and exciting?
JL: One approach—borrow from a wide variety of fields and industries. Instead of visiting other health clubs, for instance, study outstanding hotels, restaurants, coffee houses, art galleries, entertainment venues, etc. ... You can discover lots of great creative ideas that are being used by other businesses, which you can “steal,” and bring back to your club, to make a big difference.