Ecosystems, through-lines, and Professor Viamonte

Lately I have been writing about how to create solutions that cut across a market with participants of unequal wealth or power. In other words, you see a complex ecosystem and wonder if there’s some way to connect all participants in a way that brings benefits to the underserved and favored alike.

I keep thinking of something I loved about majoring in music (piano performance) at Willamette University. I served as opera theater rehearsal accompanist. And the professor who taught, produced and directed, and occasionally starred in opera performances was a charming man of Argentinian descent with the impressive name of Julio Cesar Sanchez-Viamonte V. He boasted an exotic family and professional life, especially so for the laconic small city of Salem, Oregon. There was the family pressure to become a lawyer and/or politician in the manner of Viamonte’s I through IV. How he broke the mold to sing opera but under an alias because his family’s liberal political stances did not hold up well under more militaristic regimes.

I always knew I was good at sight reading but I really met my match in Professor Viamonte’s rehearsals. For some reason, I like to think of it as laziness, arrangers of piano scores for operas left in every single note played by an orchestra. It was a mass and a mess. I cannot explain the mechanics of this but I could look at this mass of notes and the arc of the music would seem to leap off the pages. In that instant I would know, therefore, what notes must be played, that I could ignore the rest, and off we’d go.

Later as a trial lawyer, I relied on the same model to prepare for trial. Client shares facts, or a partner conveys them to me in handing off a file, and the arc of the story would jump out. In that instant I would think, therefore, these bits of information will matter most and these others not so much. I will focus there on discovery and easily identify the theme for each trial and the three pieces of evidence or proof points I would tell the jury were the ones that would guide them to the right decision.

Such is the ability to detect or cast a through-line across an ecosystem. It has been so much a part of my life that I have assumed it is nature. But I am sure there were moments of learning and reinforced learning that deepened that capacity over the years.

In sum, to take an ecosystem approach to a complex market, cast the through-line first.

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