Room for reflection
INTERVIEW - ‘Building relationships based on a common goal – that’s what I enjoy.’ Nicole van Det is senior managing director at the consultancy firm Accenture. Here she talks about her company’s partnership with the Concertgebouworkest: ‘A common goal might well take the form of a business project, but it’s that much more satisfying when there’s a social objective.’
So why is the Concertgebouworkest such a good fit for Accenture? What does the partnership mean in practical terms? What does Nicole herself experience when she’s in the hall?
‘Believe it or not, there’s actually a great Harley Davidson ad that evokes a feeling similar to the one I have when I’m listening to the Concertgebouworkest,’ she says. Nicole is referring to a recent commercial where a Harley motorcycle manoeuvres through the narrow streets of a city. The facades of houses flit past. The motorcycle enters an artificially lit tunnel, the engine roaring underground. Faster and faster, it moves towards bright sunshine at the other end. And then suddenly, everything goes quiet. The Harley glides into the freedom and grandeur of pure nature. ‘I think it’s fascinating that I have a similar experience when listening to the orchestra – in a hall with so many other people all around me,’ Nicole remarks.
A clear parallel
Nicole says the Concertgebouworkest and Accenture are intrinsically linked: ‘The first thing that comes to mind is that the two organisations have a similar level of ambition, both striving to maintain their place at the top internationally – the orchestra with music and Accenture by helping other companies be successful – anywhere in the world.
‘The resolution and determination that the musicians and the Concertgebouworkest organisation have to have – I recognise that in our own people, too.’
‘Innovation plays a major role both for us and for the Concertgebouworkest,’ Nicole continues. ‘It’s about constantly rediscovering yourself in a changing world. I see the orchestra reflecting that in the projects it initiates – whether it’s talent development programmes, finding partners for funding or the creation of its home base in Gabriël Metsustraat. Everything is about quality and innovation, both of which are essential to maintaining its leading position. The resolution and determination that the musicians and the Concertgebouworkest organisation have to have – I recognise that in our own people, too.’
Nicole says the platform the orchestra offers young talent has a clear parallel at Accenture: ‘The orchestra supports outstanding young musicians in their development. Similarly, at Accenture, the vast majority of our international workforce – made up of more than 500,000 people – receives instruction and training from experts in our own organisation.’
An added dimension
A partnership with the orchestra can take various forms. Accenture has chosen to create a personal connection between the musicians and Accenture’s staff and clients, with the orchestra sharing its knowledge through workshops and keynotes given by musicians on one of the shared themes like collaboration, ambition, intrinsic motivation, talent development or listening. Nicole continues, ‘I run an international account for Accenture, and last year, I invited my team from all over the world – the UK, Singapore and India – to a meeting at RCO House. Dominic Seldis, the orchestra’s principal double bassist, talked to us about his career path in a presentation centring on the theme “be the best, stay the best”. He also discussed trial and error, making choices and acknowledging what it is you’re good at and not so good at. Because of the priorities the two organisations share, discussions unlike the usual ones unfolded. These help you get to know your colleagues from a different perspective. And when you attend a concert together, the partnership means so much more than just buying tickets and listening to music. It gives an added dimension to the music.’
The orchestra’s Opening Night in September made a real impression on Nicole. She recalls, ‘Janine Jansen was ill, and the conductor was unable to travel. So the conductor Elim Chan and violinist Simone Lamsma stood in. It must have been very difficult to pull it all off, but it turned out to be a fantastic concert – not just good, but extremely exciting. I admire the musicians for their flexibility as a team. It’s truly a testament to their talent. I do see similarities with my own job. We, too, work in ever-changing combinations of people who differ in terms of culture, age and experience. It’s up to me to capitalise on that diversity to ensure high-performance results over and over again. Being able to make a difference depends on the various talents available. The times I succeed are some of the very best moments in my work. I recognised that attending the Concertgebouworkest’s Opening Night.’
‘A concert gives me a moment in which I experience peace and freedom, in which my creativity and thinking in terms of possibilities are stimulated.’
When listening to a concert performed by the Concertgebouworkest, Nicole says she focuses as a matter of course on members of the orchestra she has met. She says, ‘I wonder about what motivated them to pursue a career in music. What does their commitment mean in everyday life? And how does that translate to what I do? A concert gives me a moment in which I experience peace and freedom, in which my creativity and thinking in terms of possibilities are stimulated. Other leaders can benefit from this, too, especially in times like these. The urgency to change and take advantage of new technologies requires room for reflection, so we can make responsible choices and at the same time tap into our creativity. I think everyone deserves to experience the zen feeling a concert can give!’