If you’ve read our book Strategic Doing: Ten Skills for Agile Leadership I hope you read the forward. It was written by virtuoso cellist Yo-Yo Ma and he offers some wonderful perspectives. Yo-Yo has helped us gain some valuable new insights about organizational agility.

Part of what makes a great musician a…well…great musician, is their brain’s ability to rapidly toggle back and forth between gathering data about what they just did a millisecond ago to inform what they will do a millisecond from now, making constant minor adjustments (Zatorre, Chen, and Penhune, 2007.)

Playing music well requires cognitive feedback, allowing the musician to constantly make adjustments to the data being gathered. Pitch, for instance, is a variable that must be continuously controlled. The performer must listen to each note produced and implement appropriately timed motor adjustments.

An expert musician also excels at cognitive feedforward, anticipating what is next. Tapping one’s foot to the rhythm, for instance, is a feedforward motor response as the brain is anticipating the beats, milliseconds before they actually occur.

Most of our brains can’t do rapid toggling very well. That’s what makes people like Yo-Yo exceptional. Here’s the application to our work. To manage the complexities of growth, innovation, and strategic transformation, leadership needs that same toggling ability. Those who lead need to make strategic decisions informed by BOTH feedback thinking and feedforward thinking. Having one person, the CEO, the Chief Strategy Officer, the Mayor, the President of the United States, any one mind, making those strategic decisions is not a good idea, unless maybe you’ve got a Yo-Yo at the helm!

Organizational agility, in part, requires the right team of people – thinking strategically and acting strategically…together. The good news is that there are ways to identify and visualize who your feedforward and feedback thinkers are.

This combination of feedforward and feedback thinking is an important element of strategic diversity. We use an analytical tool called the AEM-Cube to help individuals understand their “cognitive thumbprint” and teams understand their level of strategic diversity and organizational agility.

Analytics, however, is not enough. You also need the means of allowing these allowing these diverse ways of thing to contribute to the solutions and strategies we design. Usually, that doesn’t occur by happenstance. For that, we turn to another tool in our toolbox – Strategic Doing.  It provides a sort of operating system for thinking and acting together with the same skill and agility as a virtuoso like Yo-Yo.

Now, imagine your organization, your community, or your entire regional economy as a virtuoso performer. What would that look like? We can help you with that. Connect with us to learn more.

Zatorre, R. J., Chen, J. L., & Penhune, V. B. (2007). When the brain plays music: auditory–motor interactions in music perception and production. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 8(7), 547-558.

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