I recently had my X-tieth birthday and to celebrate the occasion went with Jan and a group of friends to see the opening show of Stomp’s latest production in Auckland. For those unfamiliar with Stomp it is an incredible stage show based around the concept of creating rhythm-based music using everyday items. It really is a brilliant show - a great mix of music, dance and humour, and I can see why they recently celebrated their 20-year anniversary of impressing audiences worldwide.
The 2-hour show was captivating - it’s very easy to get lost in the music and the performances. Later that night though as I reflected a little more on it, I started to think about the collaborative and teamwork aspects of the show – both onstage and backstage.
The next day I did some reading on the creators of Stomp and the history of their production company. I was impressed by the emphasis that founders Steve McNicholas and Luke Cresswell place on teamwork and collaboration in the creation, production and performance of their shows.
And so I decided to write a blog post about…
5 Lessons About Collaboration We Can Learn From Stomp
1. Having the right people in the right roles
The key first step to achieving synergy is selecting team members who have diverse talents, and then harnessing those talents by ensuring that the right people are in the right roles to let their strengths shine.
Stomp’s talent selection unit has a philosophy of “openness and second chances”. Crew member Stephanie Marshall says “Sometimes the auditions are for specific roles within the cast. A person can be talented, but we see them for another role. It’s very interesting to see who they keep and who they don’t. It’s a mystery, but it’s fascinating.”
2. Valuing diverse perspectives
An atmosphere of enquiry and healthy tension is essential for teams wanting to maximise their performance. Stomp understands this:
Marshall says Stomp cast members require a sense of rhythm, dance, and teamwork. “It’s a very open atmosphere of allowing people to explore very different angles to a musical role. Although everything is set in advance, there are opportunities for improvisation and different takes on different pieces, and you see that openness in auditions. It’s not about being perfect: It’s personalities, how you work with people, and a lot of different things that translate to the attitude of the show.”
3. Inter-team dependencies
Paul Botchis – Production Manager says of synchronising the flow between backstage and onstage elements: “It’s really like choreography, we have to be like traffic directors.”
When watching Stomp, it really is obvious that each sub-team has a clear understanding of the their own and other teams’ interdependent needs and requirements at all times. The high energy and fast paced nature of the show means there isn’t much chance for the front and backstage crew to communicate verbally during the show. The level of collaboration that must be developed during rehearsals was one of the features of the show for me. The biggest tribute to the effectiveness of Stomp’s inter-team collaboration is that none of it occurred to me until I began to reflect on it much later after the show. During the performance I was complete immersed.
4. Skilful dialogue & a sound meeting structure that ensures they discuss the important priorities and difficult issues
“If new numbers are coming in, I’ll meet with Luke and Steve (Stomp founders) and they might say, ’We’re doing this, here’s how it works. So I’ll say ’Here’s our problem,’ work it out on paper, and then we’ll do a dry run with a watch saying, ’Can we do it in 30 seconds? The elements are always the same: Space, time, and materials. So far we haven’t hit the impossible thing where we have to say, ’No, this will not fit in here.” – Botchis again.
5. They view their work through the eyes of the external customer
The real beauty of Stomp is that it’s accessible to everyone. Crew member Stephanie Marshall says “people leave hitting mailboxes or the grating on the store next door.”
The Stomp creators and crew understand that their performance inherently appeal to everyone. Rhythm, dance and humour are three themes that have universal appeal, and their performance bundles them all together in a way that can be enjoyed by a wide range of people.
At base level this is the same challenge we all have in our work teams and as organisations – how do we make our product or service easily accessible and as useful as possible to our end user?
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Sitting in the audience, the collaborative themes of Stomp come through loud and clear. They are essential to the overall success of the show and a great example of how high performance teamwork can be an uplifting and enriching experience.
For music enthusiasts, Stomp is a night out that’s hard to beat. For music enthusiasts with an interest in high performance teamwork, it’s hard to think of a better way to spend an evening!
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