Friday, 13 July 2018

The glass harmonica: a story of creativity and innovation (Introduction)

This is a glass harmonica:

Click on the link below to see and hear it being played:

As you can see and hear, it is a musical instrument that uses a series of glass bowls graduated in size to produce sounds by means of friction applied by the player's fingers. It was invented in 1761 by Benjamin Franklin, one of the most creative and influential thinkers of his time.

It is an unusual instrument; to some, it may even seem a little quirky. It is not played very much today, falling out of favour sixty or so years after it was invented. 

It has not, however, disappeared. It is still being made and played (and indeed improved) by a small but globe-spanning community of passionate enthusiasts inspired by its sound and the ingenuity of its invention.

The passion and inspiration the glass harmonica still manages to ignite, over 250 years after its invention and despite the stigma of becoming unfashionable, imply that it possesses a unique and enduring quality: a quality that has enabled it survive and even thrive despite barren times and relatively scant attention.

The reason for and precise nature of this enduring quality can be discovered by exploring two things:
  1. The qualities of the glass harmonica's inventor. What were his beliefs and passions? What did he know? What were his interests? How did he think and behave? What skills did he use? What habits did he develop? How did he solve problems?   
  2. The history of the glass harmonica. What inspired the instrument? Why was it invented? How was it invented? How did people react to it? How did people use it? What problems did it encounter and how was it affected by them? How did it survive and even thrive despite these problems?  
The answers to these questions are fascinating; they provide important insights into creativity and the process of innovation.             

The following posts will provide these answers and show how we can use the resulting insights to enhance our creative problem solving and our ability to innovate.   

To read the next post click here.

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