Modern Music is…Modern Organization

Music is organized sound – Edgar Varèse

When I started my organizational design consulting business 5 years ago, I had just made a 15-year trip from the bureaucracy of the classical music world to the agility of the contemporary multidisciplinary arts. I attended every single networking event I could possibly think of and talked about my venture to everyone who would listen. In some instances, I even talked to those who would not listen. But that is an entirely different post.

I decided to use social media and word of mouth as the central marketing tools. Enthusiasm and perseverance were the only commodities in my hands to make it a success. Along the way I was being asked to blog and even write a book. I kept postponing it, there was so much to do.

It’s been an intense journey, and 5 years later, I can scream it from the rooftops, things are happening!

I have navigated the business optimization waters of Lean, I am a Senior Advisor Innovative Organization by the Antwerp Management School. I have dived deep into the relationship optimization waters of processwork, and to stay musical, I have a battery of relationship-oriented tools, including Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching tools, and serious games.

Within this spectrum of practices and experiences, I now use a wide range of frameworks to help my clients with their problem solving in a Design Thinking kind of way. I call myself an organizational design thinking consultant.

Today my clients are endorsing me, and oh yes, commodities have increased. I can now work on an entirely different kind of marketing with superstar Kerstin Hoffmann, the PR Doktor!

And here I am, excited to blog and share with you the many ways in which music connects to organizational development, facilitation and systemic coaching.

Today I would like to tell you something about graphic scores, the serious games right out of modern music performance. The prize is big. A graphic score is a collaborative framework that dramatically improves the quality of the collaboration with each iteration. The prize is continuous process improvement.

Did you know…?

Whereas classical music is notated making use of five lines with dots on and in between the lines (a score), some composers also make use of graphic notation when traditional classical music proves ineffective, the result being a graphic score. The example seen here (Hexagonie by Gaël Navard) is a graphic score of an ensemble piece. The aim of such a composition is mostly a research of new kinds of interactions between the score and the musicians. It is meant as a new type of ‘chamber music’ away from the chamber music played in traditional settings. Modern performers align around a purpose and remain engaged throughout its performance. Going back to Varèse, music is the organization of sound. When looking at graphic scores, we can also say that modern music is organized serious play.

Think for a moment about your teams

A music ensemble is in fact a team. Is the music your team is playing perhaps too traditional for the times we live in? Are traditional teambuilding practices unhelpful to your team? Are you seeking a different type of ‘sound’ for your organization? Stay, well…, tuned! Let me tell you more about graphic scores.

Hexagonie is a piece of music, a board game by Gaël NavardHexagonie

A graphic score is:

  • A serious game that allows expert musicians to develop new skills in real time while being care-free. Based on the instructions given in a legend, the players will be able to make different choices towards organizing the interaction. A symbol will trigger a gesture which will generate a new technique that in turn will generate a new type of sound. Graphic notation allows a musician to put aside everything he or she knows and to approach things with an open and fresh mind. It is a way of communicating that activates performers emotionally, allowing them to achieve that ‘something else’.
  • An iterative process of learning. There’s no such thing as a wrong performance. The first performance can be seen as a ‘minimum viable product’ (a ‘product’ that is not perfect but that somehow already works) and each time the game is played, the players will have a better understanding of the piece making each subsequent performance different and better.
  • A process to improve the enjoyment of work. The development of new skills and sounds fills experimental musicians with joy. The experimental musician yearns to go to places where he or she has never been before.

A graphic score:

  • Contains just a few rules that are clear, easy to remember (do not need to be repeated all the time), known to everyone through a legend, and easily accepted (no need for endless meetings to reach consensus). The responsibility for the end result lies within every player and everyone at the same time.
  • Allows everyone involved to have an overview of the whole process (most organizations are very fragmented, killing innovation)
  • Creates structure and a feeling of cohesion and coordination.
  • Is a flexible grid that says what needs to happen but leaves enough room for one’s own interpretation.
  • Promotes self-organization, self-selection and self-governance.

Graphic scores show that only two ingredients are necessary for self-organization: a clear purpose and a few restrictions or boundaries.

The principles of self-management were hammer-klaviered into me during my 15 years of serious play in The Netherlands. And not just self-management. I will be sharing my experience with this and other good sounding themes in my upcoming posts.

See you next time and until then, you can find my original paper on high performance HERE

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Sonsoles Alonso – I help CxOs and Founders Build Highly Efficient Happy Teams in 6 Months or Less with the Right Hires, using Systemic Tools and Serious Games.

Are you in tech? I recently teamed up with top-rated instructor Mark Farragher for our online course ‘6 Tools To Improve Your Tech and Leadership Communication’.

Check also my 5-week online masterclass:

And my online class on Team Delegation and Leadership:

Would you like to read some other posts? My most successful one so far is The War Against Talent, with over 100000 views.