There Is No Wrong Way.

While walking the other day, I spied this sign. Of course, I had to walk towards it. I’ve always had a bit of a contrarian streak within me. Even as a kid, if my sisters were going one way, I went the other —just to see what would happen.

I did my entire walk the “wrong way” that day. I enjoyed crossing paths with other walkers, runners and cyclists and being able to greet them “face-to-face” with a smile or a nod. If I’d been walking the “right way,” I would have missed those human interactions, so important in today’s world.

One of my earlier posts, Walking (and Working) Backwards, came to mind. In that post, I explore some possible advantages to starting a project somewhere in “the middle” or even, at “the end.” There is certainly more than one way to approach a problem, reach a goal or generate a new idea.

On my “wrong way” walk, I recalled yet another of my earlier posts. In it, I recount “The Rules” attributed to John Cage, one of the most influential American composers of the 20th century. Many of his works disrupted the way we think about listening. To Cage, music was everywhere and could be made with anything. Chance plays a big role in many of his works.

Although Cage’s “Rules” are geared towards students and teachers, we can all learn from them. His Rule Six is my favorite. “Nothing is a mistake.” I need to remind myself of this, regularly. There is no “wrong way” to accomplish anything.

I also love the ambiguity of Rule Ten. “We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules.” I couldn’t agree more. Whether it pertains to our work or our play, there are no rules. We’re all learning and adapting as we go — especially lately.

There Is No Wrong Way.

Where Good Ideas Come From

by Rebecca Cochran

I read a neat story about Franz Schubert (1797–1828), the Viennese composer who wrote more than 600 songs, plus much chamber and orchestral music during his way-too-short lifespan. Schubert is one of my personal favorites.

An old-fashioned manual burr-mill coffee grinder.

An old-fashioned manual burr-mill coffee grinder. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He was reportedly very disciplined in composing, working diligently every morning, nearly without fail. When a student once asked what his secret was, Schubert replied simply, “When one piece is finished, I begin another.”

One day, however, when his friend the German composer and conductor, Franz Lachner came calling unexpectedly, Schubert was not in the mood for work. He suggested to Lachner, “Let’s have some coffee.” Schubert then hauled out his most prized possession, an old coffee mill. He carefully measured the coffee beans, then took off his glasses and started grinding.

Within moments, Schubert exclaimed, “I’ve got it! I’ve got it! You rusty little machine!” He threw the coffee mill into the corner, sending the beans flying. “What have you got?” asked Lachner.

“This coffee mill is a wonderful thing,” explained Schubert excitedly. “Melodies and themes come flying in. You see, it’s the ra-ra-ra, that’s what! You search for days for an idea, and the little machine finds it in a second!” And, he began singing the themes of what would become the String Quartet in D minor, Death and the Maiden, which Lachner faithfully wrote down.

Apparently, even Schubert benefitted from the occasional change in his morning routine. This little story is an excellent example of how some of our best ideas can come from the most unlikely places.

Coffee anyone?

Reference: The Book of Musical Anecdotes, by Norman Lebrecht, published by The Free Press, 1985

Practice

by Rebecca Cochran

practiceWhat did you practice today?

Practicing isn’t just for musicians. Or ballerinas. Or Olympic athletes.

We all need to practice in order to improve. In order to learn. In order to ingrain strong habits within ourselves.

Practice enables us to do things. Even simple things like cooking. Or gardening. Or blogging. Practice also enables us to do things well.

The act of regular practice helps us to get better at innovating within our companies. Practicing innovation skills such as questioning, observing, networking, experimenting and associating, can enable us to effect change within our organizations.

Practice doesn’t have to be complicated or even time-consuming. Any of us can do it. The key to accomplishing anything is to establish a practice routine. Your routine may be weekly, semi-weekly, daily or whatever. The important thing is to carve out time on your calendar to engage in regular practice of the activities or skills that are important to you.

I think we all need to practice practicing. Or, as Aristotle so adeptly put it, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”