What I do and why I do it
What drives me: I thrive on three things: creating and delivering unique, compelling, and impactful works for others; taking on big challenges; and navigating through chaos. Even more than this, I love helping others to do these same things, especially at the scale of large or rapidly growing organisations. To put it more bluntly, I get shit done and I love to help others get shit done.
Lifelong learning: Throughout my life I’ve continuously identified or developed highly efficient and effective workflows to rapidly acquire new knowledge and become impactful in a variety of crafts in domains such as business, music, and photography. I’m very much self-directed in my learning although I do leverage many specific experts that I seek out to help me accelerate my growth in particular areas.
Different disciplines but many of the same challenges and solutions: I live a multi-disciplined life. For over forty years I’ve performed music. Although I’ve played other instruments in the past such as piano and trumpet, for the past twenty years the double bass has been my primary instrument. Although I do some freelance work as a bassist, my focus for the past fourteen years has been the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra. I founded this unique ensemble and lead it as the Artistic Director and bassist in an annual season of uniquely entertaining and educational concerts. The orchestra has also been a proving ground for many of my ideas about how teams successfully take on big challenges and deliver great products. I also took up flamenco guitar to challenge myself with a completely different instrument and musical genre.
In a different domain and medium I am a photographer. I focus on capturing unique images of wildlife, nature, people, and places, and spend a lot of my time traveling for photography. I sell prints and teach others the art of wildlife photography. Check out my photography portfolio where you will also find links to my online store, YouTube channel, and Instagram profile.
For over thirty years, I’ve worked in leadership positions in the technology industry at many small and large companies. Most recently, I was the Director of Getting Shit Done at Shopify, helping the company scale culture and internal tools during a period of hypergrowth. Nowadays I consult to a number of different organisations to help them become more effective as they scale. Read some of my thoughts about teamwork at the Creativity at Scale site.
While music, photography, and tech are different domains, I’ve identified that many of the same challenges and solutions are applicable across these and many other fields of endeavour. In 2010, Addison-Wesley published my book, The Jazz Process; Collaboration, Innovation, and Agility, an in-depth treatise exploring how highly effective people and teams in jazz, sports, business, the military, and other domains navigate chaos to find creative solutions to problems. I continue to consult and teach on topics of individual and team effectiveness at various institutions and conferences.