At first glance there doesn’t appear to be any obvious connection between Chinese lion dance drumming and running a creative design business. But that doesn’t mean the connections don’t exist. I recently became a back up drummer in Michael Choi’s lion dance troop here in Portland and was thinking about how this art form relates to solving design problems.
The first correlation is that of commitment. The Chinese lion dance drum sits low on the floor and you are expected to sit in a low ma bu (horse riding stance). After an hour of practice your legs start to burn and there’s a certain level of sacrifice in order to do it properly. A design business is the same way. In addition to providing tangible benefits for the clients you work for, you have to be committed (ma bu). There may even be consecutive nights you barely sleep (sacrifice) in order to meet the deadlines.
The second thing I realized is the drummer doesn’t exist without the lion, and the lion doesn’t dance without the drum. You are only as good as your partner or the people around you. There’s a harmony between the drummers and the dancers that allows the performance to unfold. In much the same way, client relationships are a reflection of two parts: the challenge (opportunity) and the creative development (solution). The two are interdependent.
Flow is also incredibly important in lion dancing. You must be open to any part of the performance changing and be adaptable enough to respond accordingly. This is also true in a design context. You can’t be too attached to any one idea because an even more amazing concept could materialize on the next page of your sketch book or in a conversation where you posed a smart question.
Commitment, synergy, and flow are important elements of each activity and now I’m starting to see how there may be some universal patterns between what appear to be unrelated activities. Gung Hay Fat Choy! (Best Wishes).