“Where words fail, music speaks”
–Hans Christian Andersen
I named my blog where words fail because much of my writing about cultural diplomacy discusses the point of interception, where actions supersede words.
In terms of international business, many otherwise successful businesses that failed to thrive in new markets had all the words, but lacked the required actions to connect with their target market at a cultural level. They couldn’t let the music speak.
Corporate cultural diplomacy is the opposite of megaphone marketing – it’s more like music.
In many international markets, shouting at people through their TV’s and radios and newspapers and mobile phones and from brightly lit billboards won’t make you succeed in your business venture, no matter how many clever words you have or how loud or often you shout them.
Shouting is crass – there’s no music in shouting.
Speaking of music, there are two orchestras that I’d like to tell you about, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and the Ulster Youth Orchestra which I had the privilege to manage some years ago.
The two orchestras have many similarities; they are both brilliant youth orchestras, they are both born out of violent conflicts, they are both recipients of the Praemium Imperiale Award for young artists. It’s been explained to me that in Northern Ireland when the Ulster Youth Orchestra started in the 1990’s, there were few avenues where Protestants and Catholics could even meet each other in a peaceful environment. The West-Eastern Divan likewise provides the same opportunities for Israelis and Palestinians (and people from other countries) to meet and engage with each other. Both orchestras are examples of cultural engagement at it’s finest, both encourage people to connect at a cultural level with people whom they might otherwise be in violent conflict, both promote peaceful coexistence, both use actions above words to deliver positive societal outcomes, both produce damn fine music.
My experience with the Ulster Youth Orchestra, and I’m sure the same could be said about the West-Eastern Divan, was that working towards a common goal delivered successful cultural engagement with friendships formed across societal divides. It wasn’t sitting around talking that made the orchestra so successful – it was through practicing and performing great music that it managed to cross and overcome entrenched divisions. This was when I saw the power of cultural engagement through the arts for the first time. Here, actions surpassed words to assist in building functioning communities and a more peaceful world.
Corporate cultural diplomacy can help you achieve similarly powerful results through actions that will enable you to connect at a cultural level with key individuals and groups.
Powerful cultural engagement picks up at the point where words fail.
Where words fail, music speaks
Let me leave you with a couple of videos that introduce you to both the Ulster Youth Orchestra and the East-Western Divan Orchestra.