Innovation 7 – Miles on Fire as Engineering

It was April 1988.  I was working at Costec in Sydney at the time, a company then designing and making custom simulators for the power industry focussed on the idea of it’s two founders. Each one different, using currently available technology, fit for purpose – to train operators, and difficult to create, hours of work, based on a simple idea.  Wonderful time that was.

My first inkling that there was that kind of special thing was when I went to a concert at the time, It was Miles Davis playing in Sydney.  One of two concerts I think.  I had heard some of his music before, but not much.  I had even bought some sheet music of his and tried to play it. Didn’t understand it.

At that concert, I did experience Miles Davis, and got to know him through his music and ways around the stage. The way he kind of orchestrated on the fly, getting through his ideas in such an innovative way, each time he played a number. Here was one of the most intense people I ever saw or met. Someone who seemed to have an idea, and then do his best to express it through the entire composition, components of which were his trumpet playing, others were his sidemen. Music has a quality that is free of language.  Music speaks straight into the mind of the listeners, his kind of music devoid of lyrics and words, it goes straight in, if you let it. I did.

So it has taken  about 25 years for me to figure out what it was I heard.  What I heard was the physical expression of a burning idea through music. I am sure that non of it that I heard would be repeatable, without the man at the centre of it.  Since it was not just about the music, it was also his attitude, stance, control, and direction of that idea, his total focus on it, in order to have his musicians play it the way he saw it.  There I saw a match and its consequent fire of an idea, a physical thing.  It is here now, and tomorrow it will be there as well, but it may be modified, discarded for a better one, developed. I could be better tomorrow, it could be irrelevant, but for sure, there is a strong will about that idea that has to get out.

Since that time, I have come to understand about innovation in a similar abstraction.

Take an idea and then think about how you would tell someone about that idea musically.  Would it be noise, a lone trumpet song, and orchestra playing, a symphonic movement, which one, first or last ? How solid is the idea.  If someone kicks it, will it last, will it just blow away in the wind ? How permanent is the idea or its expression.  How quick does it have to be made ? How long does it have to last ? What color is it ? How much of that color is in fashion ? When will it go out of fashion ?……

Would you care ?

Innovations are true to the idea, its clarity and purpose. They reflect the idea so that others can see it.  The innovation itself has a timeframe, a purpose and a reason. So engineering too, it full of innovation and surprise, resulting in physical things others can see and appreciate, for what they are worth, their repeatability, and value, and for how long they are around.

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