Songland is a popular TV show with a twist. If you haven’t seen the show, here’s how it works:

Four songwriters perform an original song in front of a guest artist (usually big-name entertainers and songwriters like Lady A, Florida Georgia Line, and Bebe Rexha) and three of the music industry’s top producers. Three of the songwriters are then selected by the artist and paired up with one of the producers to work the song further. The final three songs are then performed again by the songwriters and the artist chooses one to record and perform. The show is a ton of fun and the wife and I are big fans (especially of Ester Dean).

The show also has some excellent lessons for great innovation. Below are a couple that got my attention  that I strongly believe can help leaders be great leaders of innovation.

YOUR idea is good, but OUR idea could be great. Ryan Tedder (one of the three producers) said that almost no songs these days are written alone. When you see the back and forth in the collaborative process, you really see what he means. Lyrics are adjusted. Arrangements are changed. “Hooks’ honed. And they all seem to relish digging in and reworking a song that they loved as much as digging in on the ones that seem to need some obvious help. The collaborative nature also highlights the need for people to let go of the notion that the idea is “their” idea and let defensiveness interrupt the process of improvement.

We need specialists in the room to elevate an idea broadly. As they work on a song, the producers often have an “engineer” in the room with a big board of electronics and will often bring in specialized vocalists to add different sounds to the track. All of the specialists add their small but critical piece to the puzzle and it is good to bring these in early. Organizations have many specialists too, and they will add more value if they are involved early in the creative process and not just when things are all “decided.”

Don’t pitch in the dark. The aspiring songwriters don’t just guess about what changes they need for the final selection. The smart ones ask the artist what they liked and what they are looking for in order to pick up clues on what would excite the artist about the final song. Likewise, individuals and teams should be making suggestions based on knowledge of issues supported by conversation with those who will be making decisions. You want a conversation, not a verdict.

If you want excellent ideas from your team, you need to receive mediocre ideas excellently. One of the great things about the show is the support they express to these aspiring songwriters. All the producers and guests make a point to support the person even if their song is not chosen. People seem to really be buoyed by the process. Leaders too need to keep this in mind. If they don’t handle offers from individuals to improve things well, they are likely fumbling away future ideas as well.

We need technology to make the process of creativity efficient. While the producers and songwriters use guitars, pianos, and notebooks to work out the basics of a song, they all use advanced technology to add in and test different sounds and to make big arrangement changes quickly. Organizations need modern tech too, to organize and move on ideas quickly. Don’t be scared to look into software to manage this process. Most organizations have a CRM to manage their clients, right? Why not a system for ideas?


So if you like music and enjoy the creative process, check out Songland. You might also take away some lessons to apply to improve your innovation efforts. We love and appreciate great collaboration when we see it. Why not try and make more of it happen in our organizations?