Why Music?

Music is Process—Process is Music

The concepts and utilities of classical music have allowed composers to define processes, and performers to execute them, across centuries and continents. This model of group action has been around for more than 500 years. It's a highly efficient and effective mode of communication and coordination. Unfortunately, only classical musicians have been able to benefit from it. Until now.

iLiv is devoted to enhancing collective human performance. We do this by introducing our clients to a new model for working together, based on a very old model for making music together. The mechanism at work is process, and the way process works is as a composed structure in time and space where exceptional performance flourishes.

To see how we do that, see our Products and Services pages. To learn more about the musical analogy, please read on.

Be sure to read our complementary page:  Why Process?

Music Is Process

While it is charming to imagine the great composer captured in the thrall of creative ecstasy, feverishly scratching out a masterpiece, the reality is more mundane. Composers compose processes. The composer's output is an invitation, in the very best sense of the word, to a group of highly talented individuals, to spend some time together, doing some things and not others.

In other words, to follow a process.

First page of a musical score by Andrew Culver, our Founder and Co-CEO. All the elements of a well-described process are here, including roles (instruments), events (the notes), time, coordination, and the clarity to both play your part and know the score.
Copyright © 2004 by Andrew Culver. Used by permission.

The lines and dots of music notation describe which musician will play which sound at what time: who's doing what. The musician is identified not by name, but by skill set: what instrument she plays. The sequence of events and where they occur in the flow of time is notated. The tempo at which time progresses is consistent across all instruments, so the coordination between the players is notated. The music can be viewed as parts—one instrument at a time, typically on one musician's stand—or all together as a score—typically on a conductor's podium. Everyone has their part, yet everyone knows the score.

The genius is in selecting what to put in, and what to leave out. Ideally, what goes into the process is everything that must be accomplished for the work to be unique and achievable. Everything else should be left to the talents and imaginations of the performers.

Our mission is to bring process composition and performance to non-musicians in any field.

To that end, we give you the tools, the coaching, and the support you need to describe what you do as a process (iLiv Composer), and then to gather together the players you need in a place (iLiv Performer) where they can get it done.

Process Is Music

Having composed processes that express the best of what your organization does, in a manner that gives your people plenty of opportunities to be innovative and creative—what we call at iLiv "room to live"—you are off to a good start.

The next step is to take those brilliant processes and turn them into reality. To make them sing. To realize the dictum: process is music.

With the right processes and the right people, this is largely a matter of getting out of the way. But still, there are some things you can do.

First, supply the right tools. Even though Yo Yo Ma can play beautifully on a $500 student cello, doesn't mean you want your best people performing on an entry-level platform. That is why we invented iLiv Performer™.

[CNN business reporter: Can you describe your job in one sentence?] Growing people quickly.
David M. Culver

Once you have the right process performance platform up and running, you want to be continuously alert to what your performers are doing with it. The measure of success is how quickly your people are growing. You can see it in how they relate to each other, in how well they make decisions, and in how well their output maps to your priorities. And of course, in how focused and content they are. If you need evidence of how important this all is, imagine a symphony concert where the orchestra exhibits weaknesses in any of these metrics.

Coaxing music back out of a great process is an art and a science. And it's work that never ends.

A New Model

R. Buckminster Fuller in front of one of his geodesic domes, this one the U.S. pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal.
Photo Credit: Bettmann/Corbis

Bucky Fuller didn't set out to be an architect of spherical buildings. He set out to do more with less. Way more, with way less. Unfortunately, beam and post construction—how things are typically built—wasn't just making this hard. It was making it impossible. With beam and post, when you make something bigger, you make it heavier; and when you make it heavier, you have to make it bigger. Bucky needed a system that got lighter as it got bigger.

It is very common for corporations and organizations to face the same problem as buildings: getting bigger adds more weight, and more weight requires getting bigger. With organizations, the weight comes in the form of a ballooning bureaucracy of supporting people and processes. Wouldn't it be nice if you could turn that around, such that as you added people, a smaller and smaller percentage of them worked in supporting roles? Wouldn't it be nice if virtually everyone could trace their contribution to the bottom line?

When you reach a point where the existing reality is fighting you, it's time to find a new model, and make it your new reality.

The benefits of Bringing the Musical Model to Your Organization

There are two models of group action that are much more prevalent in non-musical organizations than the musical model we espouse.

One is command-and-control. It rests on a rigid hierarchy, with communications going in one direction at a time: orders go down, reports come back up. This model is particularly effective when you want to get a lot of people, spread all over, to do something they would rather not have to do. The military is a prime example.

The other is ad hoc teamwork. There, a loose and partial hierarchy pertains, with communications generally being thrown about and shared all around. This model can be effective when the teams are relatively small and everyone is in the same place at the same time. Sports teams and hospital emergency rooms come to mind.

There are indications that both of these models are failing in the modern information-based workplace. Command-and-control is too restricting for many contemporary workers, and too slow to adapt to innovative disruptions. Ad hoc teamwork is challenged by the sheer volume and complexity of information required to work these days, by the constant barrage of flow-interrupting communications, and by the need to function remotely across time and space.

Most significantly, many people these days just feel differently about how they want to relate to each other while getting hard things done.

There is a name for these folks: Network Persons.

Network Persons see themselves as absolute individuals networked with many other individuals. They need communication and coordination tools that support a new, highly connected, yet loosely-coupled way of being and working.

Organization ManNetwork Person
Hierarchic—command and controlAnarchic—self-responsibility
Works for a boss.Works for a project.
Work is private and exclusive.Work is shared and inclusive.
Driven by procedures.Driven by deadlines.
Wants ownership.Wants use.
Knowledge is power: shares knowledge as little as possible.Contacts create strength: shares knowledge as freely as possible.
Avoids decisions; seeks cover under hierarchy, bureaucracy and convention.Takes decisions frequently, guided by knowledge bases, community practices and a quick, collaborative culture.
1-way messages convey an order.2-way messages encapsulate a contract.

iLiv's music-based communication and coordination model maps perfectly to the needs of Network Persons.

We offer your people an ideal situation—where everyone owns their part, yet everyone knows the score—that is naturally transparent, communicative, goal-oriented, and collective.

We also connect people to a shared sense of purpose, and a feeling of having an impact, which is increasingly desired by today's workers.