About Music Thinking

Learn more about Music Thinking and the Music Thinking Framework.

“Music Thinking is the quest for the ultimate remix of empathy & strategy; plan & performance; thoughtfulness & playfulness; inspiration & transpiration; business & the arts. But first off, it is a new way of thinking about genuine and meaningful collaboration.” Christof Zürn

The basic idea of music thinking and the music thinking framework was developed while I was working as Creative Director, Design Thinking Coach and Service Designer. During all those years with clients the same patterns and questions were repeating:

  • How can we be more creative as a business?
  • How can we genuinely be more customer-centric?
  • Who are we as an organisation?
  • What is the best way to communicate and visualise our starting points so that everybody knows how we work and what to do?
  • How can we operate a more flexible and transformative business?
  • How can we consistently deliver and constantly surprise our customers?

These basic questions led to the Six Cues of Music Thinking:


    This cue is all about creativity, ideas and information; listening and collecting data from all kinds of sources.


    This is the people-centred cue to see with the eyes of your customer, empathise with them and search for insights that matter.


    The cue to work from the heart of your organisation; from your why and brand values to the holding space you provide for your stakeholders.


    The cue to visualise your decisions in the way that everyone has a ‘lead sheet’ of how to operate.


    The cue to decide how to work together in which constellations and when to do what.


    The cue to getting it all together under the given circumstances based on the other cues.

The cues are starting points of interventions and collaboration. They live in a dynamic challenge and solution space with Listen, Tune, Play and Perform as steps in the process.
Please note that the Listen step is active in all the other steps. This is because our ears are ‘always on’, they constantly receive information. Like in any organisation, the real question is how can we constantly keep listening to the relevant information and respond to that.

The Music Thinking Framework

The Music Thinking Framework is a repeating and dynamic model based on the principles and learnings from my experiences as a musician and Creative Director. It has four distinct parts: steps, dynamics, cues and instruments. The most important idea is that it’s an iterative process and should not only be followed once but repeated many times.

Followership vs Leadership

The Music Thinking Framework operates at many different levels. In an ideal world, we would start at the beginning and go step-by-step through the journey to a successful endpoint and final REMIX. But life and business do not always work that way.
You see it in many companies, leaders act like the conductor of a classical orchestra with their focus on the team and their backs to the client. Actually, going forward, we need performers who connect audiences, ensemble members and the basic ideas of the music in an ever-changing, dynamic space. The concept of playing together or building on each other’s strengths from different perspectives are found from Baroque through to Jazz and Contemporary Music. What can we learn from applying these principles to how we lead 21st Century business?

The advantage of Music Thinking is it has many more ways of working and organising. Music itself is neither good or bad, its just different and that helps us come to a better understanding of the different dynamics in an organisation and ways of collaborating. So leadership shifts from being an ‘ego-system’ to an ‘ecosystem’ (Otto Scharmer) where followership is much more important than just trying to lead. We need new ways of Followership alongside new ways of Leading – we shift the questions from who should I follow to what should I follow, based on values & purpose.

How to put the Music Thinking Framework into practice?

It needs a systematic programme to continuously connect all the cues. Every cue can use a different set of methods (I call them instruments) for diverging or converging. Most instruments are already known in communication, business or service design methods from Otto Scharmer (presencing, theory U), Simon Sinek (Golden Circle) and Service Design principles.

Music Thinking wants to connect the relevant instruments to a meaningful collaboration. How this can be done can be seen in the ‘Brand Minded and People-Centred Innovation Overview’ with Service Design in the centre.

What problems can we solve with Music Thinking?

See our detailed offering on workshops, training and programmes.