“I will not be thinking theory.”
Victor Wooten, a famous Jazz bassist, prefers groove over theory. For him, it’s obvious that when it grooves, the theory doesn’t matter.
Which doesn’t mean that Wooten wouldn’t know theory. Quite the opposite. He’s a great teacher who can explain in great detail why the groove grooves and what to do to make something groove.
But for him that theory is not the starting point. It’s a helping hand. Here’s how his quote continues:
“Theory only comes in if there is a problem. If I need it. Theory is a tool. And like riding in a car, the tools are in the trunk. They’re not in the passenger’s seat. I hope I never need the tools.”
Wooten doesn’t create a groove from theory.
He creates it from experience.
He creates it through exploration.
Theory is always there as a fix when he gets stuck. But it’s not the starting point.
And that’s exactly what’s wrong with executive communication. It’s often formulaic because it relies heavily on the tools in the trunk.
The speeches that have been written by professional speech writers. The jargon that marketing agencies create. The strategy language that consultants have created.
These often originate in the theory.
The rhetorical devices? Eloquent, but often boring.
The fancy names? Cool, but intangible.
The clever structure? Smart, but not exactly exciting.
Which is why they don’t groove.
It’s only theory and no groove.
When you use these tools as a means to an end, it gets the order wrong. You’ll fit the narrative into the devices, rather than finding the device that fits the narrative.
You’ll have an argument that’s sound, but not groovy.
But groove is what creates change. If you want to move your team, your investors, your cusomters, they need to resonate with your words.
Groove creates resonance.
Groove creates movement.