Organizational excellence and learning : lessons from Brazil

Anyone who has visited Brazil and moreover done business in Brazil would probably not associate Brazil with organizational excellence. While in general this may be true, I would like to share my exposure to an element of Brazilian culture which I believe exhibits many of the elements of organizational excellence that major organizations would wish to emulate. This unique cultural gem, resides in the unlikely domain of music. To many, this would not be that surprising considering the high standard of musicality in Brazil.

In particular, the style of music I address initially is known as "chorinho" and might be considered to be a pre-cursor to modern day Samba. The interesting aspects of this music for organizations is the way in which "chorinho" groups are structured and the way in which learning occurs within the wider "chorinho" community. I will be writing a series of articles relating my first hand observations of the mechanisms within the "chorinho" community to organizational theory.

The results of the way in which the "choroinho" community is managed and the way in which learning occurs has the effect of creating a vast number of virtuoso musicians, who continue to innovate and create arguably fantastic music in abundance - whilst operating in an environment of respect and co-operation.


"Chorinho" music is constructed around a well established framework, which establishes rules for how the music is performed, written and the tonal bounds within which composers may create (exceptions are allowed). This framework is generally referred too as "the language of chorinho".  This "language" forms the standards by which all aspects of "chorinho" are judged and developed. Students and practitioners must understand the "language" in order to understand and ultimately perform this music.


Learning happens in a very interesting way. First students must begin to understand the "language", there are a number approaches, theory is combined with the learning of the standard tunes that make up the traditional repertoire. This is achieved by, from the outset practicing in performance groups. Mistakes are encouraged and master practitioners play together with students - egos are left behind. Through mutual respect, everyone from beginner to master gets a turn to play in a group environment. Feedback is given, where required by the master practitioners. Learning happens in a very structured manner. Whilst there is structure, there is also flexibility. The secret is in the "doing" supported by constant feedback.

I will be writing more on this topic in subsequent posts ...


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