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Best Practice POV
Innovation: The dance of Art; the structure of Management.

I am completing a lifelong dream of finishing my sixth CD of original songs (six? - yes, it has been a great learning process to get to this point). Music is innovation, creativity, expression, and nuance. And yet, as I worked through the process, I realized my background in management and leadership translates into a domain that generally avoids any thought of process or management: artistic expression.

In the end, innovation is just that: Art meets Management.

The skills of managing made a whole lot of sense during the project. Here's why: Recording is expensive, it takes time and talent but also decisions placed at the right junctures to get the job done. Resources, whether physical, emotional or financial, are limited - just like in business (even the most gracious label is not going to spend money forever without getting a product to sell - they need to make a return on their investment [ROI]. There is a scene in "Love and Mercy" where Brian Wilson is going over and over and over the cello parts for 'Good Vibrations' driving everyone nuts and wasting time, motivation and energy).  The ultimate result of hours of creativity is an engineered product. In the end, innovation is just that: Art meets Management. 

How do art and management fit together to produce an outcome?

How do art and management fit together to produce innovation? I'll make some comparisons between the music project I've been pursing as management of a creative outcome. 

1 - Working with initial relationships.

MUSIC: To get a creative project to work well, I worked with musicians I've known for quite a while. Why? Because, contrary to the belief that opposites makes for great creativity, a basic relational knowledge of the people you'll be working with allows for a much deeper connection when you ask for their insights. In short, you trust them.

INNOVATION: In the innovation world, having a strong emotional bond with the people you're going to work with eliminates a great deal of second-guessing and emotional walking on egg shells. It simply comes down to this: "I trust these people to create with me. They won't judge my ideas as we explore, and I'll be able to tap into their substantial knowledge of a discipline without fear that they're looking down on my ideas." Just to be sure - conduct a pilot run to learn personalities and how people like to communicate. If you want the best innovation outcome take the time to test how people work together.

2 - Listen to the advice of those who have been there.

MUSIC: Experienced musicians are the best to work with for a hundred reasons, but mostly because they have tacit skills which are so deep, they don't even think about what they're doing. In the studio it's even more critical to have experienced individuals because they can see where things will lead, they can see outcomes, they can predict how things will turn out. In short, they have been through enough projects that they can apply high value in their advice and insights. They also know what to avoid!

INNOVATION: Working with experienced individuals sounds counter-intuitive in innovation. After all, we want 'fresh ideas, new thoughts, intriguing insights', and so forth. Whilst inexperienced people offer unusual insights in innovation and should be on an innovation team, having experienced people who know products, services, and concepts allows for a richer discussion, tapping years and sometimes decades of knowledge, thought and insight. Hire the best. Use their expertise.

3 - Communicating a vision outside the stress of the studio.

MUSIC: One of the keys to a successful in this latest project was sitting down with musicians ahead of time to explain the vision of a leader, to talk through the project and gain early insights . Once a musician has a guitar, or piano or other instrument in their hands, the desire to play starts to take over. Having a vision of the intended outcome allowed for course correction along the way.

INNOVATION: The energy and excitement of innovation can cause teams to get off track. The original mission of the project provides disciplined creativity (oxymoron? maybe - but not in business). Creativity and vision spur lots of thoughts, but ultimately, a product or new service is the goal, not creativity for creativities' sake.

4 - Avoid perfectionism while striving for excellence.   

MUSIC: Perfectionism in the studio means one more 'take', but that take may or may not achieve the goal/outcome. Energy is limited - voices, brass players get tired, even exhausted, fingers grow weary and sore. There comes a place of diminishing returns, where the producer and artist need to call 'times up'.

INNOVATION: One more 'round' may not lead to the success you seek. Great leaders know when people have 'had enough' and the creative juices are dried up for the session. Mediocre leaders continue to go and go and go until people have lost interest in the concepts.

Innovation is the nexus of art and management:

Creativity meets financial demands. Insight meets market demands. Cleverness meets pricing and cost demands. Concept meets reality. The dance of art Art meets the structure of management.

The two work together to derive the best of both disciplines.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Richard Haasnoot  (President  at Innovate2Grow Experts ) on Oct 31st, 2016

There is a lot to like here. Even the most technical and scientific innovation projects need a major infusion of "art" to ultimately be successful. Facts are great. Hunches, insights, and emotions are also highly relevant. Open exploration instead of a egimented step-by-step processes opens the innovation experience up to new and often unexpected big ideas.

Having said that, I suggest a couple of alternatives to some of your points.

First, regarding "initial relationships," you make a good case but it is like working with an internal company group that has a tight cultural fit. They often tend to think the same way about the same things. What we have found to be highly effective – especially for breakthrough innovative ideas – is bringing in high-level experts who have highly relevant expertise that does not duplicate the internal company expertise. We bring these competencies into a high-powered creative session (Quantum Idea Generation – 12 X more ideas than brainstorming) and wonderful things begin to happen. Separately, while the advice of people who "have been there" is one perspective, this perspective is likely to keep you within tried-and-true, which may be exactly what you need or it may be an anchor you never see.

I love your perspective on a vision and avoiding perfectionism. In my work, I run from perfectionism and I run to creating an environment where everyone can contribute their very best.

I hope this helps.

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Innovation Solutions
Best Practice POV submitted by
Jim Bohn, PhD
Jim Bohn, PhD
at Pro/Axios
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
United States
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