On September 7th, 2016, Maestro Roger Nierenberg brought his insightful and endlessly enjoyable creation, The Music Paradigm, to NJIT. Staff – who were participants, not just audience members – were seated within a live professional orchestra where we observed highly trained musicians as they performed. “An orchestra is a great place to model organizational dysfunction,” Nierenberg said at the outset. And he did just that. Essentially, rehearsing the orchestra in public, Nierenberg ran through exercises while deliberately sabotaging the group through micromanagement or flighty disengagement, all the while discussing the outcomes with players and audience alike with the goal drawing lessons on leadership and teamwork. While Nierenberg’s creation is billed as, and certainly is, an organization and team building exercise, I keyed in on something quite different – something highly relevant to the work on open innovation going on at NJII.
Maestro Nierenberg conducts his successful workshops all over the world. Does he transport his orchestra to each engagement? No. The Maestro builds his orchestra anew for each client, meets them for the first time 90 minutes before the show, and consistently presents an orchestra that appears to have been playing together for years. The Music Paradigm is made possible by a framework that knits together the classical music community, yet exists independent of Maestro Nierenberg and his musicians. This framework, which I think we can unironically call the music paradigm, makes possible the rapid organization of disparate, talented individuals with distinctive skills sets and subsequent creation of, in this case – art, that is greater than the sum of its parts. It consists of a shared language, rules, norms, and established organizational structures (the well-established component parts of an orchestra) and hierarchies (1st chair, 2nd chair, and so on). There is also a geographic aspect of the paradigm. He needs an active talent pool of working classical musicians to draw from. I’m just speculating, but I suspect its easier for the Maestro to stand up his orchestra just outside of a global hub for the arts like Manhattan than it is in Bannack, Montana.
What does this have to do with open innovation? NJII and its partners are driving the next generation of open innovation by building a flexible, replicable platform designed to rapidly mobilize public and private innovation assets and effectively facilitate collective problem solving. Sound familiar? Today, this field is largely academic, as finding a process to manage a large, flat network of external assets (i.e. people and companies) is time intensive, challenging, and not conducive to IT solutions. To begin addressing this issue, NJII has adapted a process developed by a team at Purdue University called Strategic Doing™, a facilitation methodology that builds on insights from asset-based development, Appreciative Inquiry, open source software development, positive psychology, cognitive behavioral therapy, and complexity economics. In a sense, what we are trying to create is something similar to the music paradigm – a framework that allows an agile, networked, multilateral, collaborative, innovation-driven economy to be fully realized. What is the shared language? What are the rules, norms, and structures that allow innovative business or individuals – likely in close geographic proximity – to rapidly organize, solve a problem, disband, and move on to the next challenge? What is the Collaboration Paradigm? These are questions our team at NJII is striving to answer. I’ll let you know when we’ve got it figured out.