Why is sensitive intelligence a need for our time?


Why is sensitive intelligence a need for our time?

How can art contribute to it?

Conférence donnée à Sciences Po Reims, le 23 février 2011.

Entretien Sun Dial Journal


Art and action seem to belong to different worlds. We are more educated into rational action than into sensitive intelligence. We should try to think differently, art has a lot to bring to our daily lives. Music is a good example, perhaps the best example we can derive from art, because it combines the creativity applicable to any art, and the dimensions of time and duration. Sensitiveness, time and gesture are three musical dimensions which we can apply to daily life and later on to your own careers, whether you become leaders, managers, experts, researchers etc…

I. Sensitiveness

1. Music and action have in common listening, no playing before listening, no action can take place before listening. Listening to what is said, but also to what is not said, pay attention to implicit as well as explicit communication. To make sure we are understood, we must first understand what others have to say, what they feel, what they expect from you. Action is second to listening. It does not mean action is limited to reaction, because we have to take initiative and be proactive. But initiative and action have to be based on listening. This includes inner listening, listening to ourselves, to our own feelings, emotions, and expectations.

2. Music does no say everything; it is not an explicit art or mean of expression. It is an implicit art, suggesting rather than explaining. The musical listener needs to dream, to invent his own interpretation of the piece he is listening to. Likewise, we do not need to express everything. In a corporation, it is not possible to manage only by rules and procedures. In daily life, we need to invent, to take initiative, to regulate by ourselves. We do not need to be told everything, there must be space left

3. Music is expressed with nuance. Action also needs contrasts. It is not possible to “play loud”, otherwise there is too much tension. Expression is as important as content: there is a way to say things. Music should inspire communication...What to say ? How to say it?

4. Music combines sound and silence. It alternates both. Sound needs silence to be born, to grow, and exist. Action needs sound and silence. No need to speak all the time. The mind needs silence to think and meditate. It is true for the speaker, but also true for the listener: he needs silence to understand and assimilate. Try to adopt a silent attitude: it will help you to understand, to feel, to assimilate.

5. Music tells us a story: love, sorrow, nature, dream...We are moved if we understand the story we are told. If we are told a story, preferably a true story, not a false saga, our chance to move are higher. You will have to invent your own story, your own dreams, your own aspirations, if you want to live a meaningful life.

6. Music teaches us a lesson about virtuosity and emotion. Virtuosity is nothing without emotion. Pure virtuosos do not move. We have to be moved...in order to create movement. In action, we need to perform the correct gesture

7. Musical language is not our common language. Music is a very precise code, communication has to use common terms and do with them.

II. Time

Time is a difficult topic. We can define space with its dimensions but we hardly know how to define time. We feel it more than we can explain it. We grasp that our past is made of memories, our present of experiences –I feel my hand and the table when I touch this table - and our future of expectations or fears. But that is just about all we understand. And it is not much. The past is still present. What happened? And the future is already there. What is next? Do we move from the past to the future or from the future to the past?

Greek philosopher Heraclites said that we never swim in the same river. He was right. Because the river changes all the time and we change also. An English poet named Tennyson once wrote “Time is flowing in the middle of the night”. Fortunately enough, we sleep during the night, this the only moment we can escape time. Le temps: Latin languages use the same word to refer to chronology and climate. In English time is not weather, and in German Zeit and Wetter are two different notions. Time is very close to tide which relates to the movement of the sea. So our Anglo-Saxon friends are perhaps in a better position to understand time…

The great challenge in communication is not space any longer. Everything is now fast connected and therefore closer. The great challenge ahead of us is time: how do we manage change? How do we act over time? How do we let time act upon us? How do we let time act upon things? On one side, we have “short time communication” (productivity, profitability), on the other “long time communication”: duration, cycle, assimilation of change by staff members. How can music help us to understand or at least feel time?

1. Music is in essence a changing process, an “alteration” which elapses over time in a continuous way. Music is in time because time is in music. There is no better way than music to understand time, because music is a concrete process of combined sounds whereas time is abstract.

2. Music is a slow-moving, continuous, sometimes silent process. It helps us to understand that action is submitted to movement, not to abstract theory. What does it mean in daily life? Thanks to music, communication must limit direct action, with uncertain results. Like music, communication is about accompanying a changing process rather than force ourselves or situations to change. We do not change rapidly, our motivations, our emotions are subject to slow change. It is correct to make plans, but we also need to adapt our plans to a changing reality. Communication, transformation is also slow, continuous. We need to discover the potential of situations: What can be done at a given time? Is the situation favorable? Are the conditions gathered to win?

3. Music and communication have both in common rhythm. Rhythm defines identity, strong beats and soft beats. A mazurka is not a waltz. In daily life we must define our own style, based on our convictions, our culture, our time management, our sense of priorities.

4. The dimension of time is different in music and daily action: to “play together” is not to “act collectively”. But music shows the direction: we have to cooperate with individuals who do not have the same rhythm, the same way to do things, the same culture.

III. Gesture

1. Links between music and game on one part, communication and action on the other hand are identical: everything is accomplished by playing (“tout se joue en jouant”). Nothing exists before music is played. In communication it is action which legitimates judgment and not the reverse.

2. Music has to be imagined and then interpreted. Communication must also be imagined and interpreted; there must be both vision and interpretation. Leadership has to be seconded by management. In both cases, one has to transform conception into action. Once the script is written, it has to be played.

3. Music requires training, combining rigor, technique, emotional control. Communication requires technical competence, the rational component of communication. It is also necessary to control emotions: fear, anger, stress, illusions, euphoria etc...In both cases, one must combine competence and control by associating behaviors and profound (and firm) attitudes: calm, confidence, courage, conviction, consideration, for others etc...

4. Orchestras and firms are often compared. It is adequate in a way: the orchestra has to live, develop, recruit, and sign contracts. It has to make itself known and recognized. There are other similar points: in both cases, the chef must give the impulse, have authority, develop collective spirit and interaction, listen while acting, be rigorous and demanding, and send the right message.

5. On the other hand, firms are not orchestras: they are not managed in a vertical way, in a unique place, with staff playing exactly at the same time. Communication has become horizontal, project-based, process-oriented, and therefore corporations cannot be compared to orchestras. There are many other differences. Orchestras re-create on the basis of the composition and interpretation. In daily communication, we have to “compose” and “play” nearly at the same time.


Art in general, and especially music, have a lot to bring to us, especially: Elegance of gesture, harmony of the process, collective emotion It also teaches:

Disruption: How to break with past and nurture itself from tradition and influence? You must learn how to enrich your identity through your relations,

Work: Creation, innovation can only be produced through work. Success can only come from work, I mean not strenuous, repetitious work, but creative, sensitive work.

To look at things: What do others do? How do they do it? How can I manage others, how can I influence them?"Beauty will save the world” Dostoevsky

Action will be aesthetic or will not be... Action has to be not only efficient, but also harmonious, convincing, moving. And this is why sensitive intelligence is so important, as it helps us to discover what we are doing.