Tag Archives: Creative Companion

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.

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

 

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Some older articles on Music Thinking on this blog

or see MusicThinking.com for more inspiration

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There are many shades of white | Epiphany 2016

As my friends know, I like January 6th! Every year they receive a mail with good wishes on this day.

It’s 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.

IwishYOUmanyEPIPHANIES_3

 

A great moment to wish you all the best and:

I wish you many Epiphanies in 2016!

Epiphany also stands for 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 this see below.

There are many shades of white

When we were visiting the biennale in Venice last year we also went to the pavilion of Uruguay. When we entered the room, our first thought was that Uruguay did not manage to reach the deadline, because we could – at first sight – not see anything. Only white walls. Nothing there. We just wanted to turn around and stroll further.
But, wait a minute, there are some people close to the walls looking into the deep white space. We went closer and then our eyes adjusted to the bright light and we started to see shapes, forms, shadows of tiny paper objects. The rich world of cut-out white paper on white surface. There were literally Many Shades of White. The artist is Marco Maggi.

It also reminded me of the work of John Cage and his conceptual 4’33” piece about silence. Or better, the ability to focus, listen and look very carefully. A good exercise I want to keep in mind for the coming year. In the hope to get many epiphanies.

 

What exactly is epiphany, here is a collection (repost from 2012):

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.

mail-epiphany-2016

Christof Zürn,
Nijmegen, 6th of January 2016

 

Need more inspiration?

Please consider to visit my other websites:
www.creative-companion.com for Design Thinking, Service Design, User Experience Design and Online Strategy.
www.MusicThinking.com for inspiration, tools and discussions about how music can help us to be more creative.

Connecting Business, People and Technology from ‘Best of Dutch Design’ in Discover Benelux Magazine September 2015

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to give an interview about my company CREATIVE COMPANION. You can find the results of this talk in the September Issue of Discover Benelux in the section ‘Best of Dutch Design’.

CREATIVE COMPANION  on page 29:

CREATIVE COMPANION - Discover Benelux - Best of Dutch Design

Quote:
I work like a jazz musician: great music comes from great collaboration! Christof Zürn

What you see is what will be – Epiphany 2015

Epiphany_2015_CREATIVE_COMPANION-lowres

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!

 

Oh what a year – Thank you 2014!

thankYou2014!

This was a year with many faces and to summarize these 12 months in one sentence would be something like this: a Year of Empathy, Collaboration, Music Thinking and Brand Development from a Service Design point of view.

For the fashion brand Olsen in Hamburg (Germany) I developed and designed the reality persona’s, based on research in Canada and Germany. We also worked with my brand strategy framework The Company Real Score to map the most essential brand assets as input for the brand deck.

The Übersee-Museum in Bremen (Germany) asked me to do a persona workshop with information on a one year visitors research to make strategic decisions.

Together with Design Thinkers Academy I developed a one day course of Service Design Thinking Fundamentals, a crash course with the basic instruments like stakeholder mapping, value network mapping, persona and customer journey. The next course will be in march 2015.

A sonic branding project: Massive Music in Amsterdam (Netherlands) asked me to help the team with my expertise in musicology and brand strategy. A nice combination of skills.

But there were more music and brand related activities: this year I started in Nijmegen (Netherlands) with a 20×20 (pecha kucha) presentation about Music Thinking and the platform MusicThinking.com, followed by a presentation in Cologne (Germany) about the same subject.
Together with Lutz Hempel from ICG, I did a short Music Thinking exercise during the ICG Change Management Seminar in Düsseldorf (Germany) and a full Music Thinking / Jazz it! workshop presentation in Copenhagen (Denmark) during the Art of Management in Organization conference.

For Bovemij I did the keynote presentation on their connect event in Utrecht. I showed the development of the last 30 years in the music business and how this connects with the challenges of the world we are living in today. The event was organized by my network partner Gerard Scheenstra of Innovatie Vitamine.

With my friend and network partner from the Witten School of Management Stefan Günther I did a workshop based on agile project management for Heraeus in Hanau (Germany); we also advised the board in taking steps towards a scrum framework. For Simon Weber and Friends, Berlin (Germany) I facilitated the alumni meeting with 150 people in Berlin with 10 iPads for the workshop presentations and created the Systemiker-Map  to visualize the region they work and their expertise.

The Efteling – the Dutch love brand number one – asked me to help them translate their massive research activities in a decision making instrument for a better way of collaboration between marketing and design. We worked with reality personas based on a big amount of research data and also worked with the design team on aspirational personas to strengthen the brand perspective in daily decisions. I did the design of the reality personas and all workshops and work sessions with the creative team and strategic marketing.

For De Rechtspraak in Utrecht (the Dutch Judiciary / Council for the Judiciary) I worked as UX Lead on a quality and innovation project about digital accessibility with a user-centered design approach to let different parties work together in building a user interface with a great user experience. Here are some steps we took: defining ux principles, persona development, customer journey mapping, facilitating creatives and management, usability testing.

Thanks a lot to everyone who made this year a fantastic and pleasurable time. I enjoyed to work with you together and I am looking forward to a very nice next encounter.