In my last post I noted that, when I look at an orchestra’s structure, I don’t see anything that parallels a musician’s practice room. Scaled for an organization, what would a workshop like that look like?
In the musician’s practice room we have our abilities as musicians, but a practice room also has lots of tools available. Tools – like scales studies, etudes, warm ups, a metronome, a mirror, pencils, recording equipment, etc. – that help us succeed.
An orchestra’s workshop would have our abilities as musicians, production and patron service managers, fundraisers – but it would need tools too. A key tool could be something called design thinking . You don’t have to go far to hear about design thinking these days. It’s hallmarked by 1) a quick transition from idea to prototype, 2) putting the prototype in the hands of an intended user, while 3) keeping a keen eye for where the prototype fails and 4) reiterating. If you substitute ‘at tempo’ for ‘intended user’ it sounds a lot like something musicians do when we’re figuring out how to play something.
As I understand it, design thinking is a method for people, often in teams, to create better things. This description by Tim Brown (one of the personalities most associated with design thinking) paints a picture of a scene set for design thinking:
Wherever one can shift people from a process mentality to a project mentality can make a huge difference, whether those projects are large or small…Say you’re running a restaurant and the project, rather than having everyone turn up for their job every day, is how do we make the restaurant a better experience for our customers? You have a team with a chef, a waiter, and another person could be from the front of the house and they work together on some ideas. That shift from ‘I do my job’ to participating in a creative project is hugely empowering. We’ve seen it time and time again.”
–Tim Brown (in Fast Company)
Design thinking is popular and has a lot of free and cheap tools available – it’s a great first tool to load into an organizational workshop. But it likely can’t be the only tool any more than we would only have one set of warm ups, etudes, scale studies or practice techniques.
As I see it, the key hack is funding a workshop – the unstructured room where it happens.
Look here for a free, virtual crash course in design thinking.