Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Godowski's challenge

Leopold Godowski was a man who liked a challenge, and it was a trait that contributed to him becoming one of the greatest pianists of his generation.

His ‘Studies on Chopin’s Etudes’ take Chopin’s music and make it even more demanding. Some of them transfer the difficult right hand parts to the left hand and others are rearranged for the left hand only. Some of the studies even interweave two etudes: one played by the left hand and the other by the right.

Many of us, having worked hard to reach a high level of achievement and success, can very easily become complacent and with this can come a staleness of mind that degrades our thinking and impedes our creativity and ability to innovate. This can sometimes be seen in people who have success early in life, when they subsequently find it difficult to motivate themselves onwards towards even greater achievements.

If we wish to maintain and develop our creativity and ability to innovate we need to find new challenges that will keep our thinking fresh and agile.

If you ever smell the stale whiff of complacency settling upon you think about the following types of questions:

  • If you have had a great success how can you build upon it?
  • If one of your ideas has been widely praised and implemented how can you enhance it and adapt it to more uses?
  • How could you achieve the same outcome with only half the resources?
  • How could you combine your idea with those of others to create something of more value than the sum of the parts?
  • What is the next goal you could set yourself that would bridge the gap between very good and excellent?
  • What is the one thing no one has tried because it is considered too complex and difficult and what small part of it could you to take on and overcome?

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Take a minimalist approach

Subtle changes in the rhythm and structure of things can eventually prove to be very significant. There is a contemporary musical style known as Minimalism that illustrates this very well.

The main characteristic of Minimalist Music, as exemplified by the music of Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Adams and Michael Nyman, is its repetitive, slowly evolving structure. On first hearing this type of music it seems as if the same notes and rhythms are being repeated over and over, but as the music progresses it gradually becomes clear that subtle changes are occurring.

Notes and rhythms are slowly altering, taking baby steps away from their original positions. This makes the musical rhythms and combinations of notes sound just that little bit different each time they are played. Over time the whole character of the music changes and by its end it may well have evolved into something that is very different in sound and character to its beginnings.

Sometimes, when dealing with complex issues, incremental rather than transformational change can work best. Taking small steps in the direction you want to go and making small alterations in the emphasis given to certain activities can prove more effective than grand, operatic set-piece initiatives.

In themselves any small steps taken can seem insignificant, but if they are part of a greater plan or structure that has a strong momentum and clear direction, significant and lasting change can gradually be achieved.

This type of incremental or evolutionary change may, arguably, take more time to achieve, but because those involved have arrived at the required destination only ever having been asked to travel in small steps, it may not seem like that much of a change at all. In fact people may not even recognise that it has happened!