Thursday, 28 July 2016

Lessons from Wagner about innovation: 12. personally, physically and directly pass the ownership of your unique knowledge and insights to others eager to take it

The 19th century conductor Leopold Damrosch was an ardent supporter and promoter of Wagner's works. He invested his entire professional life into developing a deep and practical knowledge of Wagner's music and how to conduct it.

Then, as he was struck down by pneumonia and his life was fading away, he used his remaining strength and last breaths to pass on the personal, and at the time unrecordable, details of his approach to conducting Wagner's works.

Like the steps of a ballet, the moment to moment movement and techniques of Damrosch's conducting could not be completely captured by written words or sketches. If they were to be taken and owned by someone else Damrosch would have to pass them on personally, physically and directly.

More than this, they would have to be passed on to someone eager to receive and use them.

Walter Damrosch, Leopold's son and also a conductor committed to Wagner's works, fitted the bill. During the last days of his father's life Walter sat by his father's bedside and eagerly took ownership of the personal knowledge and insights gained from a life time of being up close and personal with Wagner's music.     
Ideas and innovations cannot stand alone; they do not have an independent, self-sufficient life. They need people to understand and support them in countless subtle, often not easy to capture or define ways. If these people and their support become scarce or disappear so too will the idea or innovation.

During our lives most of us will gather and own uniquely valuable knowledge and insights which help us get to grips with and sometimes support new ideas, innovations and ways of doing things. Often, our most valuable insights are the most difficult to capture or record formally.

If we feel it is important for new ideas and innovations to survive and thrive, we must be willing to sacrifice ownership of our unique insights and knowledge about them. We must also realise that our most valuable insights and knowledge, because they are often difficult to capture or record, can be the most difficult and challenging to give away. They require that we make a determined effort to pass them on personally, physically and directly to those whom we feel are most eager to take and use them.          

(To read more posts in this series go to the July, August and September 2016 Blog Archive.)

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