Category Archives: Inspiration

Connecting the dots in many colors – Epiphany 2017

As my friends know I am not sending christmas cards or new years wishes. The last weeks I heard more often ‘looking forward to your epiphany wishes’ –  my tradition to do a mailing on the 6th of January raises some expectations. 

So, here it is:

epiphany-2017_card

Today is Epiphany day – the 12th and last day of Christmas. For me it is also the day of changing perspective – a magic pivot. The holiday season is over and we can focus on the coming year.  A good moment to wish you many Epiphanies in 2017!
Epiphany is not only the last day of christmas, but also stands for an experience of sudden and striking realization. The word epiphany originally referred to insight through the divine.
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 this see below (‘A collection of different meanings of Epiphany’).

Connecting the dots in many colors

The last year was colorful in many ways and there were some moments where things were changing very quickly because ‘the last piece of the puzzle’ revealed the whole picture. On the epiphany card this year I am using two logos: CREATIVE COMPANION  and Design Thinking Center.
When beginning of the year a friend sent me an email with a link to a job and the remark ‘I think this is something for you’, I did not realize what impact this could have one year later. I started as Chief Design Officer at the Design Thinking Center, but also kept working as CREATIVE COMPANION for clients like the dutch judiciary, nationale nederlanden, coca cola hellenic, council of dubai, ING (in cooperation with the Design Thinkers Academy) and others .

The Design Thinking Center is an initiative of the We Accelerate People Group and a certified B-Corporation with the guiding principle ‘designing business as a force for good’.
During the year we realized in many situations that CREATIVE COMPANION and Design Thinking Center are a perfect match and we decided at the end of the year to join forces and merge the two initiatives. If you read this on the 6th of January 2017 it could be that just in this very moment of time we are signing the official partnership and CREATIVE COMPANION will be a part of the Design Thinking Center with myself as managing partner.

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The picture above is taken on a cloudy cold december day where a group of about 20 people from our sustainability partner Plastic Whale and the We Accelerate People Group came together to sort more than 20.000 PET bottles collected by Plastic Whale in the last month. The caps of the bottles had to be removed and collected (imagine the sickening smell), the rest of the bottles sorted and packet for recycling into plastic material that were used to build a boat for the Design Thinking Center.
So this picture is symbol for connecting all the dots of sustainability, Design Thinking and  Creative Companionship.

So nothing will change, but all the dots are connected ;- )

have a great year
Christof Zürn

 

A collection of different meanings of Epiphany:

  • EPIPHANY is the sudden realization or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something.
  • PHILOSOPHICAL meaning: having found the last piece of the puzzle and suddenly seeing the whole picture.
  • ARCHIMEDES Eureka! I found it!
  • EINSTEIN was struck as a young child by being given a compass, and realizing that some unseen force in space was making it move.
  • DARWIN An example of a flash of holistic understanding in a prepared mind was Charles Darwin’s “hunch” (about natural selection) during The Voyage of the Beagle.
  • JAMES JOYCE Referring to those times in his life when something became manifest, a deep realization, he would then attempt to write this epiphanic realization in a fragment. Joyce also used epiphany as a literary device within each short story of his collection Dubliners (1914) as his protagonists came to sudden recognitions that changed their view of themselves or their social condition and often sparking a reversal or change of heart.
  • In RELIGION it is used when a person realizes their faith or when they are convinced that an event or happening was really caused by a deity or being of their faith.
  • WESTERN CHRISTIAN Religion: The adoration of the magi, represented as kings, having found Jesus by following a star 12 days after christmas.
  • HINDUISM epiphany might refer to the realization of Arjuna that Krishna (a God serving as his charioteer in the “Bhagavad Gita”) is indeed representing the universe.
  • In ZEN kensho describes the moment, referring to the feeling attendant on realizing the answer to a koan.
  • BUDDHISM Buddha finally realizing the nature of the universe, and thus attaining nirvana.
  • WILLIAM BURROUGHS is talking about a drug-influenced state, a frozen moment when everyone sees what is at the end of the fork (naked lunch).
  • EPIPHANIES is the thirteenth episode of the second season of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica television series.
  • EPIPHANY is a web browser for the GNOME graphical computing desktop.
  • HIERONYMUS BOSCH painted the adoration of the magi around 1495.
  • HOMER SIMPSON has an epiphany, after visiting a strange Inuit shaman, and realizes he has to save the town from Russ Cargill’s plans to destroy Springfield.
  • The last page of THE WIRE magazine with surprising sonic stories about music is called EPIPHANIES.
  • Interesting: if you search for Epiphanies or Epiphany on TWITTER many people talk about that they (just) had an epiphany, but don’t exactly say what it was.

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

music-thinking-framework-steps-dynamics

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.

music-thinking-framework-cues

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.

music-thinking-instruments

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

Time flies

This was definitely not the year of blogging for me. I just realized that this blog was very silence for a long time. Too much happend or with other words, there must have been some higher priorities 😉

What really surprises me is that although I did not post anything since January, there was even more traffic on the blog than last year – cool without doing anything I a had a great reach.

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This has to do that there is one post that I did years ago is still on the absolute top list of my blogs. The persona core poster. The poster I designed years ago and offer for free under creative commons. This will be my guide for the near future, to write about relevant things with a practical approach.

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The next posts on the list, a fraction of the traffic compared with the persona core poster, is a mix of my Music Thinking and Design Thinking activities: the link between music taste and persona, personas and female mindstyles, five examples of the soundtrack of my life (mental note to myself: I should write a second one with more soundtracks), Darwin performance (my performance activities) and the redesign of the empathy poster, more on persona and design.

So I am confident to write more in the hope that the traffic will not go down. We will see.

Here is a to do list, to write about:

  • Publish my Music Thinking Framework for innovation and change (done!)
  • What is Service Design Thinking?
  • About the Design Thinking Center in Amsterdam
  • How to use personas (and what’s the problem why most of the persona initiatives in companies fail or stay on shallow ground)
  • … wil be continued.

Have a nice day!

Christof

 

 

 

 

More shades of white …

After my ‘Many Shades of white’ blog post on epiphany day, I got a lot of nice feedback. Especially ‘white’ as a theme got many positive reactions.

There is a nice link to artist Rutherford Chang‘s collection of the white album by the Beatles. Many media have written about the exhibition and the story behind like: Wired, the BBC and it is also included in the very nice book Dust & Grooves.

 

There is so much poetry in the collection, story telling and ….

A project of New York and Shanghai-based Rutherford Chang, We Buy White Albums includes nearly 700 copies of the 1968 double-LP first edition of the White Album, all the personal collection of Chang. Each album is marked with a distinct serial number on the bottom corner of the starkly designed cover by Richard Hamilton, a totally white cover that’s readily attracted the wandering drawings of (possibly stoned) listeners, the visible stains of coffee cups, and some mold.

 

 

A muscial example

What happens when you take 100 different copies of a Beatles White Album first pressing vinyl record and lay them on top of each other?
Artist Rutherford Chang, who collects only first pressing White Albums has the answer.
Here is a work in progress, part of his exhibition “We Buy White Albums” at Recess Gallery, NYC.

 

Rutherford’s collection is documented on the vinyl website Dust & Grooves.
Read the full interview with Rutherford

Persona core poster – now translated into spanish

Since I designed the persona core poster some years ago, a lot of people from all over the world have downloaded the poster and are using it to create personas. This is by far the most downloaded file on my blog. Just got the question to have this also in an spanish version. Here it is with the help of  Carolina Flores-Hine.

Persona Core Poster by CREATIVE COMPANION Spanish

 

 

 

Download the high resolution version of the Persona Core Poster:
Persona-core-poster_CREATIVE-COMPANION_spanish_PDF

Download the english version of the persona core poster.
Persona-core-poster_CREATIVE-COMPANION_english

If you are using the poster in workshops I would be happy to receive some pictures. Must be awesome to see all the personas from all over the world.
Please drop a mail to christof [at] creative-companion.com