Benjamin Zander, effectiveness, Innovation, Reflection, self realization, teams, Teamwork

Giving an “A”

Ben Zander has some useful advice for us in dealing with other people. His own example is from the student orchestra of his music world, but it is intended to apply to all of us. It’s about expectation. He tells the students that they will receive a grade of A on one condition – that they write an essay to tell him, why at the end of the year they deserve one. It’s an interesting example of encouraging intention.

When I taught secondary school many years ago, I was about to meet a new class. A colleague and I compared notes. “This one’s lazy, I said. That one can be depended upon to be disruptive. I’m really glad that I don’t have to put up with this particular one again this year”. She rolled her eyes. “You’re not looking at my new class”, she said, “You’re looking at yours”. Severely chastened, I went to the classroom and told the group what I had done. Using myself as the bad example I was, I told them that I had thrown away all previous expectations and we were going to start with a clean slate. The class, of course, had matured over the summer. But so had I.

If we expect little of others, we shouldn’t be surprised if that is what we get. If we expect too much, that can do us in too. Zander relates a story later in the book when he expected one of his star players to meet his expectations – forgetting that she might have some of her own. By giving himself an A in admitting that this was unfair, he actually got her to return to the orchestra. We are not always that lucky when we admit we are wrong. Recognizing that we both have something to contribute nevertheless can increase the art of possibility.

Benjamin Zander, Creating, Innovation, Reflection, self realization

It’s all invented

Ben and Roz Zander remind us that we all see life through a particular lens – in other words we make it up. Among the things we do is define what it means to be human, we open up new ways to think and act. At our best, they say, we create flight paths to the eternal.

Ben’s musical background has taught him the importance of the long line. If you watch his TED talk, that appears earlier in the blog, he demonstrates how a beginning pianist starts to understand what he is playing – first bay emphasizing every note, then every other one, then one in four – based on the bar lines of the music. He observes that these emphases could be the way we organize our lives and that most ten year old pianists give up at this point. But the one who hangs in suddenly discovers the long line of the music that goes well beyond the limits of bar lines – the beauty of the shape that soars as we journey with it.

The chapter ends with a kicker – “Transformation happens not by arguing, but by generating active ongoing practices that shift the culture’s experience of the basis of reality. Geared to a shift in posture, perceptions, beliefs and thought processes. These are not easy”, he says.

Beauty, Benjamin Zander, Creating, Innovation, mind mapping, mindmapping software, purpose, Reflection, self realization, VisiMap, visual mapping

Good Start for a New Year

Happy New Year – and let’s start with possibility as summarized in Ben and Roz’s Zander’s wonderful book. You can enlarge the map if you need to by clicking on it

There are two good uses for Maps – note making – getting your ideas down, having a look at them and sorting out what their order should be in order to move toward doing something about them – but also note taking – summarizing other peoples’ ideas and practices. Maps need to be inspirational in this second mode – with reminders of the emotional tone as well as the fact of the message. So that’s why I took the time to add images to this one – created in VisiMap– to make it more evocative. I also added notes under some of the headings.

The Art of Possibility is a great reminder for starting the year. It’s not new, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant. If you want a copy of the map with the attached notes, just ask. It is easy to send. And making further comments about what it says will keep me busy for a few days.

I rediscovered this book in my own library through reading another one, Nancy Duarte’s Resonate. She references the TED talk that Zander gave as a model of what a presentation should be. Meeting him there where he embodies what he cares about is also a model for all of us going forward.

Creating, Pausing, Reflection, Robert Fritz, self realization

Back from holidays – and starting to take one

So how did we do? Well there was wi-fi access for the phone but none for the computer, which apparently was never set up for it. Whether it is age or setup I didn’t know or care. A trip to the bank solved a bill paying issue and e-mail arrived by phone. Most of it wasn’t very exciting.

But there were compensations. there was time to read my entire website and tweak it a bit. There was time to read the only e-book on the laptop, Robert Fritz‘s Your Life as Art and realize again how good it is. My granddaughter and I had almost daily painting sessions. She produced several water-scapes to my three or four and one highly dramatic volcano, along with numerous drawings of her favorite things in the whole world, – horses. We took in the Goderich ON Celtic Festival and heard lots of good performers and groups, – the unbelievable Gareth Pearson from Wales who can make one guitar sound like a substantial ensemble and has incredible self parody to accompany some masterful playing, and Quebec’s DeTemps Antan and Newfoundland’s The Once among the favorites.

Back home, the multitasking starts almost immediately. While reading e-mail, the phone rings. Incoming news rates entering an appointment in the Blackberry. I’m not joined at the hip to Ipods or Ipads – yet. A short pause suggests playing a computer game while I wait for someone with an appointment to arrive. Technology is starting to control me again.

So I am turning everything off for a bit. There are a couple of projects that require some major thought. I’ll take a walk in the nearby ravine. I’ll do some personal writing that I have promised myself to do that is getting swamped by all this stuff. I’ll practice the penny whistle that I bought at the music festival. And I’ll produce a watercolour. These can’t be done by multitasking – and they are creative pursuits as opposed to entertainment. There are still two key meetings toward the end of the day. But the brain needs some focus and these alternatives are ways of letting some different neurons come out to play.

Creating, Innovation, self realization, Thinking Styles

So What do YOU Want to Create?

If anything shows why we need artists, this video does. And pay special attention to the ending and how this creator actually responds to criticism from the outside world.

Creating, Innovation, Net generation, self realization, Technology, workplace

Social Media Realities

I found this one on the Herrmann International Blog with a reminder that we have to change our way of thinking about social media – and we also have to think about how it affects us personally. The growth rate portrayed here is interesting, but the presentation doesn’t even begin to think about what to do about it and its implications for education, society, economics and culture. Those aren’t part of the numbers game but they are the real challenges. If we let them simply wash over us we will have only ourselves to blame in terms of the consequences.

Creativity, effectiveness, Innovation, self realization

Innovation score


I came upon an article about a firm specializing in innovation for large companies which offered a diagnostic for innovation. Future Think offers this to anyone – though it is a bit daunting that when I put in the number of employees for the lowest category, I was deficient by 499. It is fun to pretend that one is talking about others, when one is really talking about one’s self. At any rate my scores were as follows out of a possible 5: Strategy: 3.5; Ideas 5.0; Process 2.5; Climate 2.5. The one that surprised me the most was the last. I probably need to get out more! Returning from a recent conference in Newfoundland confirmed the value of meeting new people and exchanging ideas.