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observing Right Effectively

by | Feb 10, 2022 | Benny Goodman, observe, Right vs Effective

observing Effective requires room…

As we were chatting before dinner in the large ballroom, I was surrounded by the “royalty” of the Radiation Effect community. Admittedly a little off the main road of the IEEE, it was nonetheless THE place to meet, greet, and talk with everyone who knew anything about Radiation effects. The decor had some eggs on the buffet bar as a garnish – and you would assume they would be hard-boiled. Our Principal Investigator, a jokester, picked one up and cracked it on the man standing next to me… where it exploded all over his bald head…

… and not just any head – it was one of the principal authors of THE program that was used for simulating one particular type of radiation. It is not often that a scientist’s name is encoded in the actual name of a model – but this man was that important. Luckily, he was an EQUAL jokester and returned the favor, and we all had a great laugh as they headed to the bathroom to clean up. This once-a-year gathering was where ALL the work happened… and I observed, that work was NOT done in the “technical paper” sessions…

Particularly a lot of the Right time…

The whole conference was organized to have as MUCH informal time as possible. Yes, there had to be technical sessions for those that enjoyed those, but there was a LONG breakfast hour, first paper at 10, lunch -1130 till 2, and papers ended at 4, and ALWAYS a Happy Hour or outing for the evening. They had figured out that the Effective way to advance science was to get the Right people to know each other and work together – and capturing them all in the same place was key. This observation is something that is foundational to my approach to everything.

observing new ways of what is Effective

If you trace electric guitar players, all roads lead to Charlie Christian. While only on the planet for 25 years, his breakthrough approach using the guitar set the foundation for all the players that came after him. Yes, Son House and Robert Johnson contributed their Blues music, but without Charlie and his pioneering work with electrifying the guitar – turning it into a lead vs. rhythm instrument, there would have been no T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, Scotty Moore, BB King, Eric Clapton, etc. And it is likely not a name that you know much about…

Born in Texas, he was raised in Oklahoma City to musical parents. The youngest of 3 brothers, they were forced to perform across the city to provide for the family when their father was struck blind by a fever and died when Charlie was just 12. He was mentored by a local guitar player who taught him the lead breaks from the trumpet player – but on the guitar. At a jam session, during the song Rose Room, they turned to Charlie and said “Take it” and here was one of the first-ever guitar lead breaks. As we have discussed, when your brain hears something for the first time, particularly something it likes, it releases loads of Dopamine…The crowd was ecstatic and he became a local and regional star across the midwest.

… observing it Right

Word spread to John Hammond (of course…) who suggested Christian should audition for Benny who was pioneering having black musicians play in his group. Goodman was not interested really – the electric guitar was, at that point, a novelty – a crude pick up added to the Gibson hollow body L-5 guitar that was the standard “rhythm” background instrument in bands. At the audition, Christian remembered, “I guess neither one of us liked what I played.” And that was almost that…

But Hammond insisted on another try. He installed Christian off the bandstand for that night’s set at the Victor Hugo restaurant in Los Angeles. Displeased at the surprise, Goodman called for “Rose Room”, a tune he assumed Christian would be unfamiliar with. Unknown to Goodman, Christian had been reared on the tune, and he came in flawlessly on his first chorus… of about twenty, all of them different, all, unlike anything Goodman had heard before. That version of “Rose Room” lasted forty minutes. By its end, Christian was in the band. In the course of a few days, Christian went from making $2.50 a night to $150 a week. Within a year he topped all the polls of most influential Jazz and Swing guitarists. Even horn players like Miles Davis would later copy Charlie’s licks back to the trumpet as he was so creative and novel in his approach. It is not overstating things to say he Effectively changed all of Jazz, and Right to say he put guitar up front where it belongs.

observe that Effective requires courage

So, now Benny had more people OFF the bandstand than on it. And the music that the trio, quartet, and now quintet was making was so amazing that they were now migrating proudly to the stage and into the records of Jazz and Swing. While he was not technically the first to have black musicians, Benny was clearly the first when it came to the music that was created. And by now, Benny was proud about it, stating once when someone complained using the N-word we hear so much about, “Use that word again around me and I will knock your block off”… with his BG Ray stare filling the silence.

I have been involved in many other meetings throughout my career, and have observed most are focused on having a LOT of content – the Right things we should all be learning/doing to get our “money’s worth”. And most are not Effective at what really moves the needle on contributions. Anything that has a large impact has a large team, and that means lots of relationships that need to be watered – sometimes with egg yolks 😉 Look at your calendar for next weeks of meetings – and observe – where is the time to focus on ensuring that you are collectively being Effective. Do you put relationship meetings like coffees, lunch, afternoon walks on your calendar FIRST like I did? It may not seem Right, but you will observe the results will be like Charlie’s early work in the Rose Room.

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