So, You Want to Be a Guitar Hero?

By Jim Whitt

I am not a guitar hero but I’ve played Guitar Hero. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Wikipedia describes Guitar Hero as a series of music video games “in which players use a guitar-shaped peripheral to simulate the playing of lead, bass guitar and rhythm guitar across numerous rock music songs. Players match notes that scroll on-screen to colored fret buttons on the controller, strumming the controller in time to the music in order to score points, and keep the virtual audience excited.” I’ll come back to the excited part in a minute.

I was introduced to the game when a few of my golfing buddies and our better halves got together for dinner.  The after-dinner entertainment was Guitar Hero. My first problem, aside from being devoid of musical ability, was the song list wasn’t old enough. I didn’t know any of the songs. Nevertheless, somebody put a guitar in my hands. Imagine me as Slash in a cowboy hat. Got that picture in your mind? Other members of our group manned the rest of the instruments and we started playing. Well, sort of.

Our virtual band included a lead guitarist, rhythm guitarist, bass guitarist, drummer and singer. Even though the music is simulated you actually have to play together. When you get out of sync, the game stops the music and you have to start all over again. This kept our virtual audience excited! We laughed, started over, laughed more and started over again. We were bad! But we were having fun. Then the group dynamics got really interesting. It only takes one member of the band messing up to stop the music. After each song collapse the band animatedly engaged in a “who messed up?” discussion. They all seemed to think it was me! Finally, we made it all the way through a song. This major accomplishment was celebrated with applause, high fives and more laughter. As we played more songs we had fewer mess ups and started getting better.

It occurred to me that we were experiencing an organizational development process in miniature. I can use this with clients, I thought. To succeed, an organization must have the right purpose (song), the right business model (pop, rock, country…), the right plan (music), the right tools (instruments), clearly defined roles (who’s playing and singing what) and the right people in those roles (singers got to sing, drummers got to drum…). That’s my organizational development process in a musical nutshell. As I work with clients I notice they go through the same group dynamics our virtual band experienced. They start playing and they mess up. The music stops. There’s a lot of start, stop, start, stop, start…There are animated “mess up” discussions. The key is to stay engaged in the process and not give up when they mess up. With a lot of work everybody gets on the same page, understands their role, does their thing and starts making music. As they learn how to play together they get better and, with time, get good. The result is not just a guitar hero but a whole band of heroes. Then things really get to rockin’. And just like our virtual band, that is a lot of fun.

We finally found a song I knew all the words to…1967…The Doors…“Love Me Two Times.” Having proven not to be a guitar hero they handed me the microphone. By now the band was good enough to make it all the way through “Love Me Two Times” after only two times. But two times with me as lead singer was enough. We called it a night.

Copyright © 2010 Jim Whitt Purpose Unlimited 918.494.0009 Permission to reprint: You may reprint this article in your own print or electronic newsletter, but please include the following: “Reprinted from the Purpose Unlimited E-Letter: For a free subscription, go to”

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