Tag Archives: Music thinking

I invite you to listen – Music Thinking in Service Design

This year the Design Thinking Conference in Amsterdam was held for the first time. With the theme of the conference – EMPATHY – THROUGH DIFFERENT EYES the organizers were aiming ‘to shake you up and enrich you with new insights, not just leave you comfortable and confirmed in your beliefs. No briefing to the converted, but experimenting, experiencing, having fun and being surprised.

In this regard I was doing one of the breakout sessions with the title:

I invite you to listen

“How can you have empathy with someone you don’t like or don’t understand. That is maybe the most difficult way of having empathy. One way to do this is to close your eyes and listen deeply to what they say. I invite you to listen, to a stranger, to the concept of music thinking and to everything that is around you.”

The Music in You
We started with a short exercise I call: ‘the music in you‘, this is to get to know each other, but also to see if we have a diverse group or not. So with sharing our favourite music and our least favourite music, we gave the stage to every participant to share one by one why they love the music they love.  The other participants were deep listening and empathising with that person, the music or both.  I have done this in many sessions and it is a great way to share things others may not know or like.

John Cage 4’33”
The next part was the introduction of the composer John Cage and his famous piece 4’33’’ from 1952; 4 minutes and 33 seconds of tacit (not playing) in three movements. I explained his quest for the total silence and the disappointment that there is not such a thing. We then did a rehearsal and experienced the piece from a performers point of view.

The Music Thinking Framework
As a third part of the one hour workshop I gave a very short explanation of the music thinking framework and especially two of the six the cues EMPATHY and SCORE which connected the theme of the conference and the score to the silent piece. Feel free to read my other post about the Music Thinking Framework.

I invite you to listen II

Performing John Cage 4’33”
After the lunch break we performed Cage 4’33’’ in front of the complete conference audience of approximately 100 people without telling them what Cage 4’33’’ is all about. What happend the more than 100 attendants of the conference were listening for 4 minutes and 33 seconds to a tacit performed by the Music Thinking Workshop Band. What they heard was not silence, they heard a musical piece, that was composed through their ability to listen what is in the presence.
Please click on the picture below to hear the recording of this memorable moment.

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I conducted the piece like written in the score and giving a cue for every movement. What happened is that some of the people misread my last cue and thought the piece was over and started clapping, a nice moment and beautiful sound appeared that quickly faded away and gave the piece an extra tension.

There was no announcement before or after the piece explaining what we did or what the context is. So 4’33” was treated like a ‘normal’ musical piece. Like if you had a short musical intermission by, lets say a small piece from Bach, or a singer songwriter piece, you also would not explain what the piece exactly is about, you were just listening and enjoying.

I recorded the piece with my iPad and uploaded it directly on the John Cage platform. Here is the audio recording and a picture of participants including philosopher André Klukhuhn, who joined us in the workshop (he told me he once also conducted the piece ). We talked about the link between 4’33’ and what he called the ‘god shaped hole’.

Before-the performance.jpg

Right before the performance

During the performance

Performing John Cage 4’33”

thanks to all the participant & the performers of the ‘Music Thinking Workshop band’ you made this a memorable moment!

Christof Zürn, Creative Companion

 

Note: The next Design Thinking Conference will be held in Amsterdam on 11th and 12th of October 2018

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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

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 do you think? – A questionnaire about Music Thinking

Music Thinking Survey
As a good Music Thinker I would like to learn more about my audience. It would be great if you could fill in a little questionnaire.
When I am doing workshops or presentations about Music Thinking I also ask the audience to fill in this short questionnaire before the presentation, so I can share some insights with them during the session.
Please fill in the questionnaire
It only takes a few minutes, the answers are anonymous and help me to understand more about the young field of Music Thinking and to collect my own data about this field. Insights and learnings will be presented from time to time on this blog.
thanks in advance
Christof Zürn

Google is using music thinking to promote YouTube with insights and infographics | #EDM #MusicThinking

EDM electronic dance music the-biggest-music-genre-youve-never-heard-of_infographics_lg

Think with Google the research and insights portal of Google posted a new article using music (in this case EDM electronic dans music) to show their compelling data and drive brands to YouTube to connect with their audience. They do this with a very nice infographic in the form of a decision tree.

The Biggest Music Genre You’ve Never Heard Of

How much do you know about EDM, or electronic dance music? Whether it’s a lot, a little or none at all, you’ll want to tune in to this profile of EDM fans. What you see might just surprise you: For example, while millennials under 25 view the most EDM content on YouTube, older audiences are becoming increasingly interested as well. And it turns out that EDM fans are more likely than their peers to be online, engaging in tech-savvy behaviors such as buying music online or following a brand on a social network. See how fans are increasingly turning to YouTube to learn more about music genres such as EDM and the opportunities this creates for brands.

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Download PDF: EDM electronic dance music

This is a nice example of Music Thinking