A list of productivity and collaboration lessons from The Beatles

After watching "Get Back," the fantastic film documenting The Beatles at work under incredible pressure in 1970, organizational consultant Tom Whitwell took note of "10 lessons in productivity and brainstorming" that the band demonstrated in the film. Below are a few, from Whitwell's Fluxx Studio Notes:

The 'yes… and' rule

The first rule of improvisation (and brainstorming) is "yes… and". When someone suggests an idea, plays a note, says a line, you accept it completely, then build on it.

As they slog through Don't Let Me Down, George breaks the spell. Instead of building and accepting he leaps to judgement, saying "I think it's awful." Immediately, John and Paul lay down the rules: "Well, have you got anything?" "you've gotta come up with something better"…

Use rapid prototyping

The deadlines on the project are absurd. They have to write, record and perform an album of songs in 12 days. As Paul says "we've got to do it methodically this one… we've got to get some system to get through 20–30 songs."

He proposes a system of rapid prototyping: "We get all the chords. So we can all vamp them all… we play it shitty ten times, and so it's sort of in there. Then I think we could… play it quite good."…

Embrace happy accidents

In All Things Must Pass, George wrote the line "A wind can blow those clouds away" but John misreads his handwriting as a "A mind can blow…" which stuck…

Pretend to be someone else

During the January 1969 sessions, The Beatles played 405 different songs, including their own, from Chuck Berry songs to the theme from The Third Man. Pretending to be someone else is liberating and energising. It lets you lower your defences and relax. In their context, it's the exact opposite of trying to write a song.

Don't repeat the same idea

Early in the film, director Michael Lindsay-Hogg has an idea. He wants the band to travel to Libya to play at the Sabratha amphitheatre in Tripoli, "torch-lit, in front of 2,000 arabs."

The idea is considered and rejected on grounds of practicality, taste and because The Beatles don't want to travel.

Every day, he pitches the same idea again, expecting a different response. He gets the same response, every time.

10 lessons in productivity and brainstorming from The Beatles (Fluxx Studio Notes/Medium)