Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond

Nokia Open Labs Pt 4 – The Future of Business

September 22nd, 2008 | No Comments | Categories: Geek · New Music Strategies · Uncategorized |

CT struts his stuff - photo by meAnd the last session was Join and Collaborate – CT did a nice job of setting it up with his facilitator bit, but this was where the Nokia-ness of the session first impressed itself upon the kind of discussion we had.

Everyone immediately assumed we were talking about the corporate world. About using social media in big corporations. And proceeded in that manner (something CT expressed some frustration at in his summing up). It was so pervasive that my attempts to suggest that any model/metaphor for running a big business that is predicated on an essentially organic/benign model is flawed in its conception due to it assuming the ‘right to life’ – Corporations can be entirely predatory, more like sci-fi monsters than corrupted humans… If your metaphor is that of a ‘business is just like a person’, then you assume they have an innate right to life, and that our job is to enable them to function. If they are a sci-fi monster, a different morality is at work, and they may be entirely malignant and need to be got rid of…

Such is the clumsiness of over-used metaphors, and while some good thoughts came up about the nature of business, It was largely a frustrating discussion (the root of the frustration goes back to my point yesterday about extroverts getting more airtime than they really deserved…)

But, it has since sparked off in me an idea about a mash-up of Schumacher’s ‘Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered’ and the principles involved in running an information-age corporation… running it as though the people mattered, given them some investment in the process and the product, allowing departments to run as semi-autonomous collectives…

And this is how the indie side of the music biz has run for years – most indie record labels can’t afford big staff – they can’t afford PO Boxes let alone post-rooms. There’s little space for anonymous drones in the indie world, given that everyone really needs to earn their salary, and those salaries are probably tiny. As a result, everyone is there for the love of it, and brings in whatever skills they have to make it better.

I’m in two situations like this work-wise at the moment – small teams of ‘super heroes‘, pooling their skills as a collective, rather than as employees. The first, as you’ll have seen if you’ve watched the last two videos I posted, is Lawson/Dodds/Wood – my trio with Roy Dodds and Patrick Wood. We each have different skill sets, both musician-ly and para-musically – when we’re playing, Patrick and I can easily swap roles, I can do melody while he does texture/groove and vice versa. Roy can be very much a rhythm section player or entirely self-contained, happy to play beautiful percussion without any obvious bassline to ‘lock in’ to. It’s gorgeous free-flowing music.

And outside of playing, our skills are different too – Roy got us the most amazing drum sounds in the studio – great experience at ‘ad hoc’ recording – we had no separation for mics etc, just a tiny room that sounded great. So his experience in recording live bands in his own home studio was HUGELY helpful.

Then Patrick took over on editing it – with Roy and I offering support, advice, opinions (more Roy than me, as for a lot of the editing time, I was away in the US) – Patrick produced the record, sorted out the sax/vocal additions to our trio improvs, edited them down. Really really amazing skills. (there’ll be more about this on the video).

And what’s beautiful about it is that it’s all done in an atmosphere of mutual fandom and gratitude – Patrick and I are Roy’s biggest fans. He’s our favourite drummer, and are both hugely grateful to work with him. Likewise, Patrick’s editing and recording skills are something I’m happy to pimp out to anyone looking for that kind of world class expertise. There’s no boss, no focus group, no board of investors. Just three skills people pooling their resources for the greater advancement of the whole.

The second project is JFDI/The Social Takeaway, but I’ll write more about that later, as I really have to go and teach!

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  • Rob Evans

    “an atmosphere of mutual fandom and gratitude” is probably the key reason why collaboration and the subsequent take up of tools for collaboration such as wiki’s is successful.

    There has to be a respect for the people with whom your collaborating and a willingness to invest in that relationship and those personal transactions and if the willingness comes from fandom and mutual gratitude then you’re off to a flying start.

    I use wiki’s as a great tool to aide collaboration in two different environments and you can guess what they are work an at home. Starting at work, the take up of the wiki’s has been slow, nobody can see the return or is willing to make the investment in learning how they work, they just don’t care enough about the work to make the investment, which is massively disappointing, but it’s not an environment of fandom for sure.

    Using wiki’s at home is a different ball game, the extended family care and invest the time to make them work. We use one to manage the who brings what and when we have family get togethers.

    This is fascinating question for me, how good could a business be to work in, how productive it would be, how reactive to it’s market and dynamic it could be, if all the employees worked in a atmosphere of fandom and gratitude.

  • steve


    that’s fascinating, I’ve never come across anyone using a wiki to organise family stuff before! How marvellous. The whole area of how feeling good about the people you work with affects the kind of tools you’re willing to use to collaborate is a fascinating one, so the parallels with family life are most pertinent.

    I’ve not got into the personal wiki thing yet – I’ve downloaded a wiki app called voodoo pad, but clearly have some more fundamental changes that I need to make to my productivity GTD workflow before it’ll become useful 😉

    We really need to get you down to Tuttle some time – there are a lot of people down here you’d get on great with!