Thursday, 17 September 2015

Reboot your language

'You know that thing you do with the slide when you go way up high? Let's use that sound.'

John Zorn - Composer (From 'The Muse that Sings' by Ann McCutchan) 

In a traditional context where musicians are literally and metaphorically 'on the same page' in terms of the music being played, such as during orchestral rehearsals of the works of Mozart or Beethoven, the use of well-established musical terms and jargon is very effective. It provides a professional language or code that enables musicians to understand each other quickly, make best use of rehearsal time and consistently deliver high quality performances. 

This can be likened to a project within a single organisation. Each person participating knows, or quickly learns, the well-established language, technical terms and jargon of their organisation, using them to communicate clearly with each other and get things done quickly and efficiently. 

The music John Zorn writes, however, is very different from the music of Mozart or Beethoven. It is modern, experimental and progressive: less about playing something from 'the same page' and more about playing something new 'in the same space'. This difference demands that he works closely with musicians who are skilled improvisers possessing very personal and rich musical languages that often defy attempts to describe or notate them using traditional musical terminology or techniques. In fact, trying to describe and capture these languages using traditional musical approaches would hinder rather than help the collaboration between Zorn and his musicians: constraining and inhibiting creativity and expression rather than releasing and encouraging it.

This situation can be likened to a collaboration between people from different organisations, each of those participating bringing with them their own organisational languages, technical terms and jargon. Trying to constrain or 'vacuum pack' these diverse aspects within the language and terminology of one of the participating organisations would clearly be ineffective and undesirable: it would inhibit and constrain rather than encourage and release the creative and innovative problem solving that most cross-disciplinary collaborations are set up to achieve.          

So, within the above kind of situation it is important to co-create a new way of communicating: one that not only enables clarity and understanding but also releases creativity and innovation. To begin this process we need to go back to our default speech setting: the speech setting that everyone understands and that focuses upon and describes, in very simple every-day terms, what we see, hear and do.  

When we do this our speech will gradually reboot into a language that fits our collaborative context, enhances mutual understanding and integrates and exploits to mutual advantage partners' diverse knowledge, skills, expertise and experience.

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