Saturday, 12 December 2015

Asynchronously problem solve

The composer Marc Yeats writes asynchronous music, where each instrumental part relates to others not in a set and structured way, like bricks in mortar, but in a flexible way, like oil on water. 

Each individual instrumental part that Marc writes is complete within itself: a finished work requiring no support from other instruments. However, each part shares similar musical material, such as themes, rhythmic patterns and harmonic clusters, so when they are combined it is possible to identify cross-relations and connections between them, and (because the parts have been written as separate and self-contained works) these cross-relations and synergies can be intriguing, surprising and stimulating.

In effect, a whole new musical work is created whenever the independently written parts are combined in live performance. Moreover, given the asynchronous nature of the music, each and every time the parts are performed together the piece created is slightly different, possessing its own unique and intriguing cross-relations and synergies. 

The principles of this approach can be used to creatively problem solve. We can create separate, completely worked out solutions that address the same problem and have the same number of people working on them who have access to the same information, resources and budgets. We can then bring these solutions together, not to judge them and pick a winner but to experiment with them and uncover creative and useful ways of combining them which will lead to yet more innovative solutions or perhaps one superior integrated solution.   

Moreover, the connections and synergies perceived between the solutions will be heavily influenced by the knowledge, experiences and skills of those doing the experimenting (the people tasked with finding connections and synergies between the separate solutions). This means that encouraging different people to experiment with combining the solutions will inevitably uncover different insights leading to different solutions and different combinations of solutions.

So, the next time you have a tricky problem to solve try some asynchronous problem solving:
  • Identify and develop separate solutions to the same problem. Make sure that the same number of people work on each solution and that everyone has access to the same information, resources and budgets.
  • Then bring the separately worked out solutions together and experiment with them: find ways to combine them which will lead to new insights, more solutions, more integrated solutions or one completely integrated solution.
  • Bring the separate solutions together more than once. Invite different people to experiment with them each time.
  • Review the results. What patterns have emerged? Have any connections and synergies consistently appeared? What discoveries stand out as particularly novel or unique? Is a pattern or synergy less common? Why is that? Does it need to be explored and developed further? Would it benefit from a new and different team of people experimenting with it?

Then, just as sun shining on oil moving on water will illuminate a rich diversity of ever changing patterns, your creative energies will uncover a rich and ever evolving tapestry of innovative solutions.

Marc Yeats creative process is fascinating. To find out about it click here.                                            

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