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Archive for August, 2019

Following my post “Who is the composer?”, I got the opportunity to have a conversation with the man himself: Ozark. He told me the story of what happened when he tried to conduct a philharmonic orchestra for a film soundtrack he had written. I did not know he wrote a score for a film, but he did. It is the score for the film Crusade in Jeans and the music is performed by with the Metropole Orchestra from The Netherlands. All professional musicians used to work with artists in residence.

Film_poster_Crusade_in_Jeans

There is some real classical music stuff going on here

https://open.spotify.com/track/5RYwYGPiFq2UQ4si9Tuxu6

https://open.spotify.com/track/1ABPzFSQRIV9zSUQ0MNuHX

As a composer, he knew exactly what needed to be played when and how. He could as well conduct the orchestra himself, no? Or so he thought… But he learned the hard way that doing so was breaking hierarchies. He stepped out of his role as the composer when he tried to be the conductor of the orchestra.

An orchestra is like a ministry. Every unit has a role. The conductor does not communicate directly with the violist, no he/she speaks to the lead of the violin ensemble who speaks to the violist. Ozark brought also copies of the score with him, ignoring that copying the score was the job of somebody from the orchestra team. He could as well have said: “You know what? I found this great tribe of horn players, so they will play the horns this time.” Basically putting the original team in unemployment.

In a reaction of self-defense, the orchestra started playing – well-intentioned – games, sabotaging what Ozark tried to achieve. These games were well-intentioned because the intention was the care of the team.

In Dutch, there is a word “bezorgdheid” usually translated into “concern”, mostly an anxious type of concern. In my sense of Dutch language (my mother tongue), there is also an almost “mother-care” type of concern encapsulated in that word. A team-mother-care about what the orchestra is concerned about, the cohesion they wish to protect. This is not about care for the team, but care/bezorgheid of the team.

I often think back to the old Innotribe days, where we had a fantastic team. In my 2013 post Breaking and Making Teams, I described with quite some cynicism the recipe for breaking successful teams successfully. Remember: cynicism is a knot in the heart.

knot-tree-trunk-84928768

It is a paradox: to innovate, one must have the courage to challenge the status quo, the existing processes, and hierarchies. But on the other hand, a team and a hierarchy have a built-in DNA-like patrimony of craftmanship and care-manship. Breaking that patrimony is a recipe for failure.

One can cut-and-paste the breaking hierarchies metaphor straight into corporate mergers and acquisition scenarios, for example when a successful team is acquired into a new company. Instead of looking how the strengths of an acquired team and its internal language, proceedings, and patrimony can help to imagine new worlds – in other words, making the team even more successful in its new environment – in many cases the CEO is only interested in how that team can help him/her be more successful.

In such cases, we wonder why the team is not willing to share its secrets, wondering why the best folks leave, wondering why there is no team left at all after 1-2 years. We shouldn’t be surprised: we just broke the team hierarchies.

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Sometimes, the orchestra metaphor is used in leadership contexts, representing the leader as the conductor, steering/leading the orchestra. I believe the asymmetric relationship of the “leader” with his/her “followers” is a flawed metaphor. 

Orchestra conductor

The more interesting and critical question is “Who wrote the score?”. In other words, “Who is the composer?”. I already alluded to this in my good/bad-change-post.

"Heroes" and others by Ozark Henry and National Orchestra of Belgium

Quote by Robert Fritz

“In an orchestra, it is not the conductor or individual musicians who are in control.  It is the composer.  The composer’s job is to make sure that the parts fit together. Too often, no one is actually composing the organisation, and it leaves one of two bad choices: command and control or organising systems. Much has been made in the last 20 years, glorifying organising systems, but, what happens over time is that these systems self-organise into structural conflicts, which lead to oscillating patterns.”

“That’s why a “composed” system can lead to advancement and forward movement toward building the company but the other alternatives do not live up to their promise.”

The composer creates an immersion. A good example in music is Ozark Henry, who now spends his days creating immersive soundscapes. He got into this 360° sound experience when setting the bar for his immersive album “Paramount”recorded with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Belgium. The full documentary of the making of this album also shows Ozark Henry in his role as “Composer” working with the Orchestra.

Ozark is NOT the conductor. He hired the conductor. He hired the director. He hired the musicians. He is the composer.

What are the qualities of the composer? Also here, Ian Cheng comes to our help.

Emissary

Ian Cheng - from the book "Emissary's Guide to Worlding"

As can be seen from the diagrams above, the stretch for most artists is to become “composers” rather than problem solvers or conductors. The composer is an artist/alchemist, trying to create harmony between four internal forces/roles:

  • The Director at work, focused on “What is the story/narrative?”
  • The Emissary at work, focused on “A future you can believe in”
  • The Cartoonist at work, focused on a uniting Cartoon/Mascot metaphor
  • The Hacker at work, focused on iterating hacks “It might not be science but it works”

All roles need to be present in the composer. In my opinion, this model does not only apply to artistic endeavors but works very well in a business context. Most businesses struggle to get to the right side of the graphic; in seeking surprise and going into unknown territory, and imagining alive worlds that they believe in. That’s where the future innovative opportunities are.

I suggest the composer is the ideal archetype for dealing with ambiguity

Have a great day!

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As mentioned in my August 2019 update, I am helping a client with an immersive leadership offsite. I am starting to label this sort of work “Artistic interventions, interruptions, and provocations that lead to higher states of alertness and aliveness.”

15-properties-leitner-1024x768

Coincidently, Sarah Perry just posted her swan song essay on “Meaning as Ambiguity”, referring to the work of Christopher Alexander (one of my all-time heroes) and coiner of “The Quality Without a Name” and “The Fifteen Geometric Properties of Wholeness” from Chapter-22 of his fantastic book “The Battle for the Life and Beauty of the Earth

beauty

Back to meaning and ambiguity. In the design of this off-site, we confront the participants with increasing levels of ambiguity in the BANI worldIn their responses, we expect the participants to progress from learning into problem-solving into “Worlding”. See also my post on “The Tyranny of the Problem Solver”.

I first came across the term “Worlding” in the book “Emissary’s Guide to Worlding” by Artist Ian Cheng http://iancheng.com/

EGTW_1-0_cover_webres

It is one of those books where one makes annotations on every page, a big eye-opener and page-turner. Highly recommended.

Worlding is about imagining a future world you can believe in.

Some inspirational quotes from Ian Cheng’s book:

A World is a future you can believe in: One that promises to survive its creator, and continue generating drama.  

A World is a future you can believe in by promising to become an infinite game

A World evokes a place. 

A World has borders.

A World has laws. 

A World has values. 

A World has a language. 

A World can grow. 

A World can collapse. 

A World has mythic figures. 

A World has visitors. 

A World has members who live in it. 

A World looks arbitrary to a person outside of it. 

A World satisfies both the selfish and collective interests of its members. 

A World grants magic powers, especially the power to filter what matters to it. 

A World gives permission to live differently than the wild outside. 

A World creates an agreement about what is relevant. 

A World counts certain actions inside it as meaningful. 

A World undergoes reformations and disruptions. 

A World incentivizes its members to keep it alive. 

A World is a container for stories of itself. 

A World expresses itself in many forms, but is always something more.

For us humans, life is filled with the familiar contests of finite games: Deadlines. Deals. Rankings. Dating. Elections. Sports. College. War. Poker. Lotteries. 

When our finite games are won and done, what is strange is that we don’t exit back into base Reality. We wake up in a field of infinite games that perpetually mediate our contact with base Reality. 

We choose to live in these infinite games because they give us leverage, structure, and meaning over a base Reality that is indifferent to our physical or psychological health. 

We have many names for these infinite games: Families, Institutions, Religions, Nations, Subcultures, Cultures, Social Realities 

Let’s call them WORLDS

When a World can “survive its creator,” that means it has achieved sufficient stability to regulate and safeguard its potentiality without authorial intervention. 

This is a World’s requirement for Autonomy. 

When a World can “continue generating drama,” a World is sufficiently interesting for people to care about and want to explore. 

This is a World’s requirement for Aliveness. 

When a World is keeping its promise, it continues to be a future you can believe in

All the credits for the quotes above go of course to Ian Cheng. Great book.

Hope you enjoy it too!

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delicacies

There is a new edition of Petervan’s Delicacies. Number 124. An irregular, unpredictable, incoherent, unfocused set of mind-sparks that got me thinking.

As an appetizer, the last one on this edition is about Nakatomi Space, the tower that McClane explores in Die Hard via elevator shafts and air ducts, crashing through windows from the outside-in and shooting open the locks of rooftop doorways.

This is about “A ghostlike military fantasy world of boundless fluidity, in which the space of the city becomes as navigable as an ocean.” The physical walking-through-walls is a strong metaphor for radical innovation

Check-out issue #124 here. And if you like it, subscribe to future (unplanned, unguaranteed, unfocused) edition here.

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Ambiguity is often related to “uncertainty”. Uncertainty is the “U” and Ambiguity is the “A” of the VUCA world (Velocity, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity). VUCA is a term that dates from 1987, and almost 30 years old.

jamais Cascio

Jamais Cascio

Already end 2018, Jamais Cascio (Institute For The Future) coined a new acronym that in my opinion better captures today’s “ambiguity”: “BANI”. The term kept on simmering in my brain. My summary:

BANI stands for:

  • B = BRITTLE = strong systems breaking down, hard but likable to break easily
  • A = ANXIOUS = feeling there are no good options
  • N = NON-LINEARITY = strong differential cause-effect
  • I = INCOMPREHENSIBLE = too complex for the human to understand, at least at the present or without augmentation

“Being geared for ambiguity” is about being able to develop “hints and responses”, “pathways” for dealing with the new environment. Pathways, not necessarily firm answers/solutions to specific problems.

Moving beyond problem-solving and developing these “responses” is what it is all about in reaching more mature levels of leadership. See also my post on “The Tyranny of the Problem Solver”

What are those responses?

  • BRITTLENESS is dealt with by RESILIENCE
  • ANXIETY is dealt with by  EMPATHY/AGENCY
  • NON-LINEARITY is dealt with by FLEXIBILITY
  • INCOMPREHENSIBILITY is dealt with by INTUITION

We need to create another narrative to make ourselves comfortable with the new reality of BANI worlds. The Kayaker in white water is a good metaphor for how one feels in ambiguous environments.

kayaker

The BANI environment (the white water) is what it is. It “is” like the weather. One can complain and lament about it (ruminate), but that won’t change anything. It is difficult or impossible to change.

Brittleness and Non-linearity are characteristics of the humans and the organizations, of the general conditions and situations of the individuals and the environment. Anxiety and Incomprehensibility are “feelings”, human traits of understanding and are NOT qualities of the general conditions and situations.

The stability of the kayaker (her response to instability) comes from her body sensory experiences.

The more experience (practice), the better the body reacts automatically and sensory to instability.

Great kayaking is based on a lot of immersive experiences.

In an abstract environment, the “body” is a metaphor for authenticity, integrity and personal agency. 

Agency is our ability to act with effect in the world.

The artistic interventions, interruptions, and provocations that I try to create lead to higher states of alertness and aliveness of our personal agency in ambiguous worlds.

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This is a supplement to my post about the end-of-year assignment Art and Culture at the Academy of Visual Arts in Ghent.

Dutch version here.

Dear Fiorella,

Your lessons were always fun for me. You speak in poetic and philosophical words and sentences. I have written them all down and someday I will publish an anthology of them. Chris and Inge advised me to use them as inspirations for my paintwork.

Here are a few examples of sentences and statements that flow from your mouth:

THE CHESSBOARD IS EMOTIONLESS

A GOOD ARTWORK DOES NOT GIVE ANSWERS

THE INTENSITY OF SLOWNESS

BEING BROKEN IS A STATE OF BEING

WORKING WITH CLAY DOESN’T MAKE NOISE

WE CAN ONLY SEE EMPTYNESS WHEN WE FILL IT

THERE SHE LIES IN ALL HER GREATNESS

LYING IN DEATH

360 POSSIBLE VIEWS

IN RELATIONSHIP WITH THE ENVIRONMENT

AND KEEPING TRACK OF THEM IN OUR HEAD

“THE PARCOURS”

CREATION OF THE POSSIBILITIES

TO LET THE IMAGE EMERGE

BLOCKING OF THE VISUAL BRAIN

WHEN IS SOMETHING BECOMING TIRING?

WHEN YOU CANNOT DETERMINE YOUR OWN TEMPO

YOU CAN TAKE A SMALL STEP

TAKING A HUGE SPACE AT THE SAME TIME

THE BRAIN IS LIKE AN OFFICE

A HOUSE WITH ROOMS

SOMETIMES YOU NEED OTHER KEYS

With gratefulness,

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Dit is een aanvulling op mijn post over de eindejaarsopdracht Kunst en Cultuur aan de Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten in Gent.

Dutch version. English translation here.

Fiorella,

Je lessen waren voor mij altijd genieten. Je spreekt in poëtische en filosofische woorden en zinnen. Ik heb ze allemaal opgeschreven en ooit publiceer ik een bloemlezing van ze. Chris en Inge hebben me aangeraden om ze te gebruiken als inspiraties voor mijn schilderwerk.

Hier zijn een paar voorbeelden van zinnen en statements die zo uit je mond vloeien:

HET SCHAAKBORD IS EMOTIELOOS

EEN GOED KUNSTWERK GEEFT GEEN ANTWOORD

DE INTENSITEIT VAN DE TRAAGHEID

BREUK IS EEN STAAT VAN ZIJN

MET KLEI BEZIG ZIJN MAAKT GEEN LAWAAI

WE KUNNEN EEN LEEGTE PAS ZIEN ALS WE ZE VULLEN

DAT LIGT DAAR IN ZIJN GROOTSHEID

DOOD TE LIGGEN

360 MOGELIJKE STANDPUNTEN

IN RELATIE MET DE OMGEVING

EN DIE IN ONS HOOFD HOUDEN

“HET PARCOURS”

CREATIE VAN DE MOGELIJKHEDEN

OM HET BEELD TE LATEN ONTSTAAN

BLOKKEREN VAN HET VISUELE BREIN

WANNEER WORDT HET VERMOEIEND?

ALS JE JE EIGEN TEMPO NIET MEER KAN BEPALEN

JE KAN EEN KLEINE STAP ZETTEN

EN DAARDOOR EEN ENORME RUIMTE INNEMEN

DE HERSENEN ZIJN ALS EEN BUREAU

EEN HUIS MET KAMERS

SOMS HEB JE ANDERE SLEUTELS NODIG

In dankbaarheid,

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