Category Archives: business performance

Selected TED Talks on Music Thinking

Here is a selection of different TED talks. All of them use Music and Music Thinking in one or the other way. From psychology, to emotion, to technique – get inspired by this amount of musical presentations.

Schizophrenic violin lesson

Robert Gupta, violinist with the LA Philharmonic, talks about a violin lesson he once gave to a brilliant, schizophrenic musician — and what he learned.

Making Mistakes and Prototyping

What is a mistake? By talking through examples with his improvisational Jazz quartet, Stefon Harris walks us to a profound truth: many actions are perceived as mistakes only because we don’t react to them appropriately.

Imagination, Emotion and New Experiences

Benjamin Zander has two infectious passions: classical music, and helping us all realize our untapped love for it — and by extension, our untapped love for all new possibilities, new experiences, new connections. With a great exercise on Imagination and Emotion with Chopin.

Music Psychology and Soundscapes


Playing sound effects both pleasant and awful, Julian Treasure shows how sound affects us in four significant ways. Listen carefully for a shocking fact about noisy open-plan offices.

Research on the Brain and Music

Musician and researcher Charles Limb wondered how the brain works during musical improvisation — so he put jazz musicians and rappers in an fMRI to find out. What he and his team found has deep implications for our understanding of creativity of all kinds.

Trust and Examples from the World

Conductor Charles Hazlewood talks about the role of trust in musical leadership — then shows how it works, as he conducts the Scottish Ensemble onstage. He also shares clips from two musical projects: the opera “U-Carmen eKhayelitsha” and the ParaOrchestra.

Music and emotion through time

The composer Michael Tilson Thomas  traces the development of classical music through the score, the record, and the remix.

Live Looping, Improvisation, ‘gestural” Sound Design

Musician and inventor Onyx Ashanti demonstrates “beatjazz” — his music created with two handheld controllers, an iPhone and a mouthpiece, and played with the entire body. At TED’s Full Spectrum Auditions, after locking in his beats and loops, he plays a 3-minute song that shares his vision for the future of music.

The is another one I can’t embed: José Bowen: Beethoven the businessman. José Bowen outlines how new printing technology and an improved piano gave rise to the first music industry and influenced a generation of composers. Note: you should also read the comments.

On the TED website you can find more examples when you search for the Tag music (there is no music thinking tag yet!).

Some Music Thinking on Branding and Miles Davis

Although the music industry may use the term branding for marketing a product or band it is not used in the context of music itself. Though it could be interesting from a brand point of view to see how co-creation works in music. In many genres there are examples of co-creation from jazz to pop and rock.

But where rock bands would co-create in the studio and later just reproduce the outcome in gigantic tours without changing a single note, the jazz approach is different.

Recording sessions in the studio were rather an interruption of playing in clubs or being on a tour. So things that where tried out and tested on stage could be easily brought into the studio and studio experiments could easily be tested life with the experience of the direct response of the audience.

It is legitimate to call Miles Davis a strong brand that managed to develop, innovate and co-create new musical styles and genres over several decades starting from the 40s to the 90s. When you listen to albums like Birth of the Cool, Kind of Blue, Bitches Brew or Tutu we encounter many different sounds, styles, genres and musicians but in all of the songs we hear and feel the ‘musical essence’ based on directions from the charismatic personality of Miles Davis. Although the essence is not explicit or defined by words we could see this as the brand itself that was co-created by Miles and his musicians.

In other words Miles the person is the brand ideology (mission, vision, values) and together with his musicians they were branding together.

Some aspects in his way of working:

Young musicians

An important role in the changes of musical innovation was the recruitment of young musicians that where willing to go where Miles wanted to be, or already had chosen a direction where Miles wanted to go. Miles did recruiting based on his vision and was actively looking for change of his own brand through co-creation.

Start with a sketch
Miles Davis self did not compose in the way that he came to a recording session with a fully written-out score. Most of the time either Miles or one of the band members came up with an idea or rough sketch that then was developed further.

In Louis Malle’s film Ascenseur pur l’echafaud e.g. he let the band react directly to parts of the film that were shown in the recording studio via a big screen. Based on small instructions from Miles the band collectively reacted to actions and emotions.

The musicians did not always understand what he was doing, or what he wanted, but they trusted and respected him to make something outstanding. It was like: start with a sketch, learn together, build consensus for change and innovation.

Listen and play
Most of the musicians were talking about Miles as the ‘best listener who ever led a band’, he heard what everybody else was playing and with his voice and the ability to show new possibilities he was the glue to make it sound like a whole band. His instructions were famous in being vague, showing the right direction and also leaving enough freedom for own interpretation:  Don’t bang just play! You listen and you play!

Brand influence and the creation of new brands
“Everyone who played with Miles, feels a bond with each other” Herbie Hancock. Playing together with Miles was special and also inspiring to go on with musicians that had the Miles-experience in working together.

Bringing yourself in a co-creation with a big brand can also have a very positive effect on your own brand or personality. Nearly all of the musicians that played with Miles became later famous musicians and bandleaders themselves and created their own sound. Especially the ‘In a silent way’ players were dominating the jazz and rock development of the 70s and beyond.


The music of Miles Davis and the music thinking that is inspired by him can be a learning and inspiration for branding, communication, co-creation, new thinking about design and design of organizations and creative processes. Christof Zürn

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Want more info on co-creation, innovation an branding?

Brand Together: How Co-Creation Generates Innovation and Re-energizes BrandsI had the chance to read an early version of the new book of Nicholas Ind and to co-create and share with him some thoughts about co-creation, innovation and branding. I am looking forward to an interesting read! Brand Together: How Co-Creation Generates Innovation and Re-energizes Brands

What is your formula for now?

There is a fantastic book by curator Hans Ulrich Obrist with a lot of answers to the simple question: what is your formula for now?

In elegant simplicity you find the crystallization of a potentially complex idea into a single equation. You can use it a s a source for formulating your basic principles, your secret recipe, use it just as a briefing for your next project or just take it for your inspiration.
The book is dedicated to composer Karlheinz Stockhausen and artist Julius Koller both died 2007. The one page formula of Stockhausen’s 29 hour-opera LICHT:

Superformel aus LICHT

The secret formula on how to become a genius by Marina Abramovic:

1 tablespoon of talent
5 drops of popularity
1 drop of luck
10 kilograms of discipline
6 glasses of self-sacrifice
3 grams of spirituality

Here some more examples by Stewart Brand, Fischli + Weiss, Simryn Gill, Albert Hofmann (LSD).

Link to amazon.com: Hans Ulrich Obrist: Formulas For Now


Music thinking is the radical little brother of design thinking

When talking about services and service design I am convinced that music thinking can add an extra layer to the discussion of what design thinking means and especially how we can bring it to life in branding, communication and design.

“Music thinking is the radical little brother of design thinking”
Christof Zürn

When thinking about design there is the assumption, that at the very end after lot’s of prototyping, testing, etc. there is a final product, that maybe can get some updates later but is ‘ready to use’. When thinking about music (classical, jazz, pop) at the very end there will be a piece of work that has to be performed before the crowd. And after the performance what remains is the recall of an experience. If it is good you want it again, buy a CD, T-shirt or spread the word. If it is bad maybe you will ‘boo’, just turn away or tell it to your friends.
For me music thinking reflects the dynamics of daily business, working together with different experts, have to perform everyday on an high expectation level in different performance venues for an changing audience. Music thinking also knows ‘radical change’ in style, technical innovation and behaviour of the crowd, customer, consumer, user, downloader. Music thinking is the behavioural side of design thinking:

In the project approach that I am using for CREATIVE COMPANION I am thinking about the project approach more as a dance, or dance steps. There is a certain order, there is a certain style, in this case it is a Tango. You don’t dance a tango alone you do it together and you have to rehearse, ‘prototype’ and iterate many times the dance steps together to make it a real experience.

CREATIVE COMPANION project approach with music thinking

Download the
CREATIVE-COMPANION factsheet and project approach (PDF)

Best 10 principles in design, business and more – any suggestions?

Is there any need for rules, principles, commandments? How can guiding principles help you to make better decisions?


I just set up a mindmap with the most inspiring 10 principles that come up my mind when designing or thinking. Some of them have more than 10. For me it is an interesting starting point while doing something, although personally Creative Companion Nr. 10 is the one for me.

It’s a map in progress, have a look, any suggestions?
Ten-principles-in-design-life-and-more-collaborative-map
Best 10 principles in design

Christof Zürn
CREATIVE COMPANION
www.creative-companion.com

Download:   CREATIVE COMPANION Fact sheet