Searching for that elusive means to increase results from your middle performers? How about cutting an album of inspirational songs?
Or, if you’re not a dot-com millionaire with your own sound studio, you can lean on Andrew Mason. This summer, the founder and former CEO of Groupon released “Hardly Workin’,” a seven-song album that he says is intended to be “motivational business music targeted at people newly entering the workforce.”
With song titles like “My Door Is Always Open” and “K.I.S.S.” (lyrics: “The best things in life are clear without instructions/If you gotta’ explain it, your plan needs reduction.”) “Hardly Workin’ ” seemed to catch business writers a bit off guard and left them aghast when it debuted on iTunes ($9.99) and other digital download sites in July.
“Is this a joke? It’s very odd and it’s hard to listen to. Is he kind of mocking us?” asked Simon Constable, host of the News Hub show at WSJ Live.
But Mason’s blog post announcing the album’s availability reinforced his sincerity. “This album pulls some of the most important learnings from my years at the helm of one of the fastest growing businesses in history, and packages them as music. Executives, mid-level management, and front-line employees are all sure to find valuable takeaways. I’ve probably listened to the album over a dozen times now, and with each spin I feel like I learn something,” he wrote.
Mason was a music major at Northwestern and played in a band called Planet of the Planets.
The tech-heavy website Mashable called “Hardly Workin’ ” “a sort of Schoolhouse Rock for businesspeople,” (which does Schoolhouse Rock a huge disservice) while Constable’s colleague at The Wall Street Journal Greg Bensinger points out, “You do have to buy the album first to be inspired by him and someone may question how inspiring of a figure he is.” Mason was fired in February after Groupon stock had dropped by 83 percent from its I.P.O. price.
Mason, however, is confident in his songs’ ability to fire up your troops. “Before I leave you to your speaker system or headphones, one word of advice for managers thinking about how to make the best use of the album,” he blogged. “Sure, you can just leave copies of ‘Hardly Workin’ ’ on your employees’ desks and achieve an incremental increase in productivity and morale (productivity is a function of morale, people!), but I wrote this album as someone who believes that messages mean different things depending on the time and place they’re delivered. Try ending your next all-hands meeting with ‘It’s Up to Us,’ for example. Having trouble communicating with a low-per/hi-po employee? A ‘Thinkin’ of You’ note attached to a flash drive preloaded with ‘My Door is Always Open’ might be the catalyst you need for that transformational breakthrough.”