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Diverse observation

by | Feb 3, 2022 | Benny Goodman, DEI, observe

What is Diverse in your observations?

From my days in Debate, I observed that you could follow links between documents. Remember this is LONG before hypertext and the web, but at the end of papers are the references. You start to see the same papers referenced many times, and you find there are typically only 10 real papers you need to understand. Here I found a couple on a model of what happens in space, a couple about measuring devices in a cyclotron, and a couple about an experiment that actually flew in space. And I observed that none of them had worked together…

… and having already been taught that connecting people was a critical leadership skill, I went about connecting with each of them, and starting to get a path put together. The endpoint was clear – we needed to prove that devices in space WOULD work by having 1) a Model validated with 2) Real space data that is 3) Correlated in a lab. And Diversity was not only present in the science, but also in the individual organizations. It would require Air Force Contractors, NASA UnManned Space Researchers, Naval Research Labs mathematicians… and private industry, which is where I was. How could I bring all of that together – particularly when they all observed they each were the expert??? Including me…

observing Diverse paths to “success”

Benny’s break to land on “Let’s Dance” with Fletcher Henderson didn’t look like it at the time. He was given the 3rd/last slot on the program, starting after midnight on the East Coast. He dished up the dance music steaming hot on Saturday night coast-to-coast broadcasts. But as most of the east coast audience was in bed, the program didn’t really catch on. However, due to the three-hour time difference, his late-night shows originating in the East were broadcast in prime-time West of the Rocky Mountains. There, Goodman was considered the standout star of “Let’s Dance.” His band was wildly popular with teenagers and the preferred soundtrack for Saturday night dance parties in front of the parlor radio. But neither Benny, the band, nor booking agencies realized just how popular his music was out West.

During an otherwise failing 1935 cross-country national tour, Goodman and his band were suddenly received with wild enthusiasm on the West Coast, playing to large and enthusiastic crowds in San Francisco and Oakland, California. The legendary breakout happened at their final destination in Los Angeles, the popular Palomar Ballroom. Much to their surprise, they were a colossal success with the young Jitterbug dancers and Lindy-hoppers at The Palomar Ballroom.

There were numerous other very good white dance bands in the era. But Goodman’s particular brand of Swing matched youthful tastes more exactly than his competitors, capturing the loyalty and love of a generation whose courting rituals centered on dancing the FoxTrot. The Palomar appearance was extended. Word got out. The records sold like hotcakes. Bookings flooded in. Soon the influential Down Beat Magazine was featuring Goodman in every issue often on the front-page at just barely 26…

Single-Minded Diversity

There is something about people in their 20’s that I admire… and cringe at simultaneously. There is such clarity of vision, purpose, “their truth”, that it is hard to get out of their way fast enough. And if you can find a way to direct it towards something important, and deal with the wreckage and consequences, particularly with relationships that are trampled on as they step over and through people, it can be amazing. Here we are seeing that with Benny, and there are many examples in music of people’s best work that is usually their first few albums done before 30.

Here I had that clarity… and the observational tunnel vision that goes with it. We needed to pull all these Diverse players, organizations, and disciplines TOGETHER into a team that could predict, measure, and then correlate a model… and then the most important phrase in planning that is often skipped over. So that… those 2 words are almost always clear to each person. Understanding how to find the “so that” out for each, then finding how ALL the “so that’s”  overlap (if you remember math, the Venn Diagram), makes winning Teams. All see something in that for them, a collective “so that” … and then Diversely pull together to make that possible.

Observe Diversity

In my tenure teaching in the MBA program at JMU, the Dean there commented one day “the most interesting things happening are always at the edges of different disciplines.” What he had observed is that problems that required many different perspectives and talents drew out the best in each other… and as I would continue my career, also sadly their worst. Relationships particularly between single-minded, you might even say non-Diverse, visions were very difficult to create and manage. And I was becoming the poster child for that. From his breakthrough performance at the Palomar Ballroom, come back tomorrow to see me trample all over relationships to get things done… using my own version of the King Porter Stomp.

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