Category Archives: Creative tools

The Music Thinking Framework for iteration, innovation and transformation

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In my practice of many years as a Creative Director, User Experience Lead, Service Designer, Design Thinking Coach, Change Maker  – or in summary as I call it ‘Creative Companion’ – I recognized a couple of things in the organizations and clients I worked for:

  • organizations are in need of solutions for challenges they don’t know yet
  • management is often focussing on ‘the one’ solution for their complex problems
  • organizations are organized and focused in silos and lack interfacing expertise to connect the dots
  • people often don’t understand the impact of their decisions on the whole
  • people are busy to develop an ‘end state’, instead of changing their mindset to an iterative approach to change
  • sometimes people use musical terms when talking about action and collaboration, like: ‘let’s have a jam session about this’, ‘we should orchestrate this idea’, ‘we need a great conductor to lead the organization’, …

The last thing is not really surprising because musicians are natural collaborators and trained to work together in different constellations to perform a time-based experience. And this goes far beyond than just being on stage. This needs sometimes years of preparation, daily exercises and daily collaboration with a multitude of people to excel in a performance in front of a critical audience. Think about a jazz musician who acts as a teacher, a sideman, a leader of his own band, or as studio musician, or member of a big band or an orchestra in a total different genre.  

Although I have no single solution on the raised questions above, I developed a framework that helps me to navigate these questions and make integrated decisions. Disclosure: this is not about music. The Music Thinking Framework is based on principles and learnings from my experiences and perspectives in music and the translation of these findings and patterns to the practice of a Creative Companion. The Music Thinking Framework has different parts: steps, dynamics, cues and instruments.

 

The Four Music Thinking Steps

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The four steps LISTEN, TUNE, PLAY and PERFORM are surrounded by repeat marks, this means that it is a repeated pattern (and may never stop).

LISTEN stands for the openness to information with the focus on empathy beyond just understanding. Everything can be relevant in this step and should not be scoped out.

What is special: The Listen step is actually a timeline through all the steps. This means in every step you have to be open for information and should be capable to process it.

TUNE stands for making decisions based on clear guiding principles. LISTEN and TUNE together are two steps of the challenge space. It depends on the dynamics of the organization and project how much you can open up the listening and how many decisions you have to make.

PLAY is the first step of the solution space and has the function to open up again and bring in new perspectives, more ideas and deeper exploration. The difference here is, they will be judged by the decisions made in the TUNE step.

So the choices that have to be made in the PERFORM step are based on everything that has been done before. In time based art, there is no way back, you have to deliver. It is like standing on the stage, the audience is ready and you have to deliver what you have, no excuses. But if you have not opened up in the LISTEN step your first performance will be a risk, like going on stage unprepared and unexperienced.

 

The Six Music Thinking Cues

A musical cue is a section of a piece of music that’s intended to signal the time for a performer to carry out a certain action. A cue can also be given by a band member or conductor as a prompt to start or sync the playing. I realized in my practice while working on the intersection of business, people and technology that it would be nice to have some cues to take immediate action. I experienced many times that the following six cues work very well in business situations:

  1. JAMMIN’ the cue to get more creativity, more (crazy) ideas and information, data from all kinds of sources.
  2. EMPATHY the cue to see with the eyes of your customer, empathize with them and search for insights that matter.
  3. PERSONALITY the cue to work from the heart of your organization; from your why and your brand values to the holding space you provide for your stakeholders.
  4. SCORE the cue to visualize your decisions in the way that everyone has a ‘lead sheet’ of how we operate.
  5. AGILITY the cue to decide how to work together in which constellations.
  6. REMIX the cue to getting it all together under the given circumstances based on the other cues.

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The Cues are more or less connected with each other and appear in a certain step. However it is possible that some cues can change their place, for example JAMMIN’ has often the role of ideation in a Service Design Thinking project. For a new project or assignment there are three intro points that make a good start for a collaboration.

A: Creativity – the organization is in need for new diverse ideas.
B: Service Design – the organization is in need for relevant ideas.
C: Organization –  the organization is in need for a new purpose or position.

So the ideal situation is to focus on the challenge space first and then on the solution space. However most organizations see their problems in the solution space, or have not the awareness that their real problems are in the challenge space. The most important thing is to start on the now and get into the loop to create awareness for the long now when there is time to see the big picture.

 

The Music Thinking Dynamics

I thought about how the steps above would behave in different music styles. I call this dynamics; it means that the same steps behave different when played in a different style.

In classical music there are clear steps where mostly one composer is developing his idea from the many possibilities until he gets to PLAY with the first rehearsals and may fine-tune the piece until performed. This follows the steps you see below. One step further would be a pop production where in the studio the different steps overlap and LISTEN, TUNE, PLAY, PERFORM are more or less happening at the same time. The producer or – in a live situation the DJ – is getting more influence and the focus is on the REMIX, but the genre is clearly set (SCORE) and the material is thoroughly chosen before (TUNE).

In a typical rock band like U2, you would find a lot of PLAY. The steps LISTEN and TUNE are developed over the years and are clear to all the members, so the main point is on collaborating in the PLAY that overlaps with PERFORM.

In Jazz or even more in Free Jazz we talk about instant composing. LISTEN, TUNE, PLAY, PERFORM are done live on the stage at the same time, based on quick mutual understanding, deep listening and experience from playing with many different people and constellations (between duo and tentet).

music-thinking-dynamics

 

The ideal picture of the four steps has its dynamics in the real world. Most companies are not used to separate the challenge from the solution space, with the effect that there is a fuzzy challenge and many ideas on how to solve it, until there is the realization that they are very effectively solving the wrong problems. It is like working effectively with a scrum team in time and budget, but not solving the problem of a real client.

In essence they are organized like a Free Jazz Band without the understanding and experience and try to make changes like an orchestra conductor or DJ.

As a Creative Companion or Music Thinker it is essential to understand in what constellation the organization is playing. You have to listen deeply and start with the right cue to help the organization to make the steps from iteration to innovation and transformation.

 

The Music Thinking Instruments

Actually this is a collection of tools, methodologies and canvases I am using and recommending. But there are many more. With the exception of the Company Real Score and the Persona Core Poster these tools have been developed by smart minds like Simon Sinek, Otto Scharmer, Alex Osterwalder or Tim Brown. What I have done here is to collect and cluster them to the Music Thinking Cues in the way I think they are helpful. 


* Most of the instruments can be used to ‘create choices’ (diverge) and to ‘make choices’ (converge). ** This is a selection of typical instruments, but there are many more.

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A Mentality in meaningful collaboration

For me Music Thinking gives an extra dimension to other approaches and methodologies and can be easily combined.

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“Music Thinking is the quest for the ultimate remix of Empathy & Strategy, Innovation & Tradition, Plan & Performance, Thoughtfulness & Playfulness, Inspiration & Transpiration, Business & the Arts. But first of all it is a mentality in meaningful collaboration.”  

Christof Zürn

 

Download

 

Some older articles on Music Thinking on this blog

or see MusicThinking.com for more inspiration

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What you see is what will be – Epiphany 2015

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January 6, is a special day! Epiphany day – the 12th and last day of Christmas. For me it is also the day of changing perspective. The holiday season is over and we can focus on the coming year. A good moment to wish you all the best for 2015!

But epiphany is also an experience of sudden and striking realization. The word epiphany originally referred to insight through the divine (see the link with the three magi). Today, this concept is used much more often also without such connotations, but a popular implication remains that the epiphany is supernatural, as the discovery seems to come suddenly from the outside.
More on epiphany in an older post.

My epiphany exercise
Over the last year I made more than 3.000 pictures with my iPhone camera. Snapshots, selfies, screenshots or pictures to just remember something; people, things, situations.

49 pictures from more than 3000 pictures on my iPhone in 2014 - What you see is what will be.

81 pictures (of more than 3000) on my iPhone in 2014. Click to enlarge.
(c) CREATIVE COMPANION 2015

Above you see 81 pictures from my iPhone collection ‘more or less’ selected randomly and ‘more or less’ grouped unintentionally: pictures from workshops, encounters, visits to museums or cities, personal pictures with family and friends; pictures while traveling, being on vacation or sessions, while working, lecturing, pictures of things that somehow reached my iPhone. If we have met the last year you may recognize some of the pictures.  I love the pattern, the red line, something that connects all or at least some of the pictures.

But it is not just about what I have nearly literally seen, but what do you see? You can click on the picture to get a higher resolution.
Is it funny, innovative, useless, disgusting or – wait a minute – something (maybe familiar), something you have not seen this way? Something that suddenly triggers your mind, get you an idea or an epiphany? Be my guest. Have many of them. Share them if you like.

Use your own pictures
Why not do this with your own pictures? Take 81 pictures (less or more) from your camera, smartphone (think Pinterest, iPhoto, Instagram, …) and make a new pattern of pictures. Maybe you see new things or old things in a new way – isn’t innovation for 99% the connection of already existing things?
Try to find the word, phrase, motto that connects all the pictures, make groups or just have fun with all the colors. What you see is what will be.

I wish you many epiphanies in the coming year!

 

Creativity, Music and E-learning

Today I got my official statement of accomplishment from the Stanford Online course led by Tina Seelig, Executive Director, Stanford Technology Ventures Program. It states that I have successfully completed, serving as a team leader and with distinction, a free online offering of Creativity: Music to My Ears by Standford University through NovoEd.

This six-week experiential course focused on opportunity recognition, reframing problems, challenging assumptions, connecting and combining ideas, working on creative teams, and mastering a mindset of innovation. It was also a good opportunity to work with the e-learning platform. I would recommend it for another course.

Here is the trailer:

Creativity: Music to My Ears from Stanford Tech Ventures Program on Vimeo.

And here the final class video.

Creativity: Music to My Ears, the final photo project montage from Stanford Tech Ventures Program on Vimeo.

It was fun to do this online course together with more than 20.000 participants from all over the world.

Here is a selection of some material from the course for inspiration, including some old time classic of creativity like The Powers of Ten, or The 6 Thinking Heads:

YOUR INNOVATION ENGINE
Introducing the Innovation Engine by Tina Seelig

LISTENING DIFFERENTLY
with the key concepts: The importance of active observation, Noticing opportunities around you, Capturing your observations.
Video: 5 Ways to Listen Better by Julian Treasure

CHALLENGING ASSUMTIONS
with the key concepts: Framing and reframing problems, Tools for changing your point of view, Going beyond the first answer, Brainstorming guidelines, Team challenge.
Powers of Ten – Ray & Charles Eames (1977)
de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats
Video: How NOT to Brainstorm
Video: How to Brainstorm

CONNECT & COMBINE
with the key concept: Engaging Your Audience and Telling Your Story in a Creative Way.
Designing Music
Video: Everything is a Remix

CREATIVE MINDSET
with the key concepts: The importance of experimentation, Learning from failures, Mastering a mindset for creativity
Treat Life Like and Experiment– Tom Kelley, IDEO
Life Lessons Through Tinkering – Gever Tully

 

Empathy poster for focus group, interview and research

Inspired by the d.school’s empathy map I designed a poster that can be used in focus group meetings or any other research or interview situation.

While asking questions and observing behaviour like body language, tone of voice or choice of words it is important to note everything that  occurs in the session. In a second step, or during the session you will encounter contradictions (maybe already in saying), between what people say and what they do. Any contradiction or paradox can lead to a (latent) need or desire. If you ask yourself (or the participant) ‘why the things are as they are’ you may come to remarkable realizations or even an epiphany. This will be your most valuable insights.

Empathy Poster by CREATIVE COMPANION

Empathy Poster by CREATIVE COMPANION

Download the PDF version of the  Empathy-Poster by CREATIVE COMPANION.
You can print the poster in A4, A3 up to A2 and use it in different situations and workshop or research settings.

More posters:

The Persona Core Poster 

If you have collected a lot of insights you may want to go a step further an build personas for your company or project. There is another nice poster for this:

The Persona Core Poster by CREATIVE COMPANION

 

The Company Real Score Framework – Die Firmenpartitur

If you want to map your whole brand input and compare it with the reality persona you could also use The Company Real Score a strategic framework for brand innovation. You can also download the original poster.
Deutsch: Die Firmenpartitur (www.firmenpartitur.de)
English: The Company Real Score

Have fun!

PS: yes you can use the posters free of charge and yes I would be happy if you give me some feedback, credits or just spread the word!
Christof

www.creative-companion.com
www.creative-companion.com/deutsch/

 

Hello World! Documentary about creative coding and the processing software

I am a big fan of Processing and Generative Design and yes learning the software would be on top of my bucket list – if I would have one. The software is free to download and you can use it right away via processing.org – there are  a lot of tutorials and examples on the site. There is a new documentary that could be a perfect intro into the theme of processing.

Hello World! Processing is a very nice documentary on creative coding with a lot of examples that explores the role that ideas such as process, experimentation and algorithm play in this creative field featuring artists, designers and code enthusiasts.

If you like the video, you may also like this book: Generative Design.

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The website completes the book Generative Design. It offers direct access to all processingsource code for the software described in the book. Very nice!