91. Why should executives be hiring a Choreographer | Hannah Reichardt & Dan McClure


Hannah Reichardt & Dan McClure | The Choreographer



Welcome to Episode 91 of The Future of Work, the podcast that looks at every aspect of work in the future, featuring industry experts and thought leaders discussing how work is changing and evolving. The Future of Work is NOW.

In the past 2 episodes with Hannah Reichardt and Dan McClure from Innovation Ecosystem, we’ve looked at Choreographers. A new role, that has nothing to do with dancing, that suits those who can make things happen in a big-picture, complex, and innovative space.

In this final episode, we look at the book they are busy collaborating on and how it is structured. We also pick their brains to find out some valuable lessons they learned whilst putting the book together.



Hannah Reichardt BIO


Hannah is an innovation strategist, with two decades of experience working in overseas aid and commercial sectors, getting stuck into big challenges and having a great time along the way. 

Her innovation experience includes developing solutions across multiple collaborating entities, designing and implementing digital solutions for new markets, and devising and delivering approaches for rapid learning and iteration in complex contexts. She's a specialist in multi-stakeholder collaborative working, monitoring, and learning, as well as creative ideation. 

Outside of work, Hannah is learning to skateboard and trying hard to channel her 'learn through action' belief (with helmet and pads). 


Dan McClure BIO


Dan is a lifelong choreographer who has spent a four-decade career running into burning buildings. He has led ecosystem innovation efforts across industries undergoing deregulation and disruptive change, governments working to respond more nimbly to big opportunities, and international organizations taking on challenges in aid, climate, and the environment.  

He has been a thought leader, shaping ecosystem innovation practices that intentionally embrace complex problems. Today, collaborating with the other choreographers in Innovation Ecosystem, he gets to dive into exciting messy challenges from across the globe, pursuing big ideas from Mongolia to Jamaica.




[00:00:00] - Dan McClure
By definition, we work on problems that you don't know for sure whether or not you can solve. You're always walking a little bit in the dark towards the edge of the cliff. One of the key jobs of a choreographer is to continue to believe when all reasonable sources of evidence are now gone.

[00:00:31] - Doug Foulkes
Hello and welcome to episode 91 of Chaos and Rocketfuel: The Future of Work podcast. This is the podcast that continues to look at every aspect of work in the future. It's brought to you by WNDYR and Pattyrn. I'm your host, Doug Foulkes. Along with me is my cohost, Claire Haidar. Claire is the CEO at WNDYR. Claire, we're busy having a very interesting chat with Hannah Reichardt and Dan McClure about choreographers. So Claire, just bring us up to speed on what a choreographer is please and let's see how we finish off this conversation with Hannah and Dan.

[00:01:05] - Claire Haidar
Doug, before I dive into that and give us a bit of a recap of segment one and two and an overview of the segment three, I really do want to add that I think that the general audience who is listening to this podcast will really be able to relate to this specific, not just this episode, but this whole series around this role of choreographer that Dan and Hannah are actually calling out.

[00:01:31] - Claire Haidar
You know, you and I have some insights into our audience. We know who's listening. We know what the typical profile is of people listening to this podcast. I think a lot of them are choreographers. So if you haven't listened to segment one and segment two, please do take a leap of faith and listen to them because I think you'll learn a lot at just pure basic, personal level about a role that you may likely be fulfilling in a company right now, but it actually hasn't been named and labeled as such.

[00:02:03] - Claire Haidar
So segment one, we go back to the basic definitions. Who are choreographers? Why do they exist in companies? Why have they not been labeled as such to date? What does this role look like?

[00:02:13] - Claire Haidar
In segment two, we go into the really practical applications of it. How do I identify the choreographers that are there? How do I incentivize these people? How do I make sure that we're really maximizing the ROI to the company? Where do we go from yet? Like what's the future projection of where this role is headed?

[00:02:32] - Claire Haidar
in this section today, we're actually taking a step back and going back to Hannah and Dan themselves and looking at the book that they've written about this. What I'd like to specifically call out here is Hannah and Dan have actually generously said to us that they will be sharing a number of different resources with us. Things such as job specs that outline this role, etc. So really practical things that HR executives and other executive team members can really use, take and use in the organizations to maximize this role.

[00:03:02] - Doug Foulkes
Excellent. I am looking forward to hearing how Hannah and Dan sum up this conversation with a deeper look into their book.

[00:03:09] - Claire Haidar
Your Guys Book, is so much that we can talk about here, but I want to come at it a bit a little bit from a different angle. So tell us about the structure. The reason why I'm asking that question is because I believe the way authors choose to lay out chapters gives us insight into the main message that you're wanting to drive home. So share a little bit with us about that, starting with the title and then moving into the structure.

[00:03:35] - Dan McClure
So let me start by being very choreographer and say that's an interesting system to look at, but let's look at a bigger system.

[00:03:45] - Claire Haidar
I love it, Dan. So go.

[00:03:48] - Dan McClure
I'm working on a book with Jenny Wilde, who's our other partner in choreographer crime here. That is one of the key components of things that we've seen that need to be brought together. But there's actually a bigger problem. When you look at a space like an entirely new role in innovation, there are multiple things that need to be put in place for it to become a profession that somebody could claim.

[00:04:16] - Dan McClure
So you need purpose. You need to be able to explain why you need to explain why this role matters and what important problems you're going to address. You need practice. You need to be able to explain how you actually do this job. Then you need a position. So you actually need somebody to craft a job for you and put a role in place, etc.

[00:04:39] - Dan McClure
That purpose, practice and position for newly emerging fields, none of those things exist. So what happens is you get a real scattershot thing. You know, somebody writes a little bit about a purpose issue and somebody else writes a little bit about a practice piece.

[00:05:00] - Dan McClure
For this really to work as a profession, we need good coverage on all three of those and we need to knit those together. So that's the bigger challenge that Hannah, Jenny and I are working with. The book is one part of that. So in addition to the book, we're looking at courses and tools and storytelling through podcasts, etc. But the real goal is to create that whole solution.

[00:05:29] - Dan McClure
Now, to answer your earlier question about the book. So the book is really designed to provide a first introduction into those first two pieces. What's the purpose and need of a choreographer? What's the practice that supports them?

[00:05:52] - Dan McClure
because this is all about big picture thinking and tying things together. What we wanted to do was really paint the entire picture of how this knits together rather than any one piece. So our first part, we walk through what's the nature of the problem, why this type of innovation is needed, why the old innovation doesn't work, and then what are the challenges to making it work?

[00:06:20] - Dan McClure
so that should allow a choreographer to go into a job interview and say, hey, this is why you need me. I can't tell you the number of job interviews I've gone into. They say, what do you do? Then I stumble over my words for half an hour. So this is supposed to be essentially the business case that we could take to the market and say, this is what we do. Then the second half of the book is how we do it.

[00:06:51] - Claire Haidar
Dan and Hannah, I'm so glad that you pulled the choreographer on me and spun that question around. Because, in talking to you guys today, and it emerged so strongly in this conversation that we've had today as well, is that you are essentially where UX and UI design was in the early 2000s. You know what I mean? I consider one of those forerunners like yourselves who actually named it to be Steve Krug when he wrote his book, Don't Make Anything Stupid.

[00:07:23] - Claire Haidar
At the time that he released that book, he simplified something that everybody was feeling and sensing, but didn't quite know how to put their finger on it. What he did so elegantly and eloquently was he put it into an illustration, you know what I mean? That just became this like simple mantra.

[00:07:44] - Claire Haidar
He certainly isn't the only one. But pretty much from his book onwards being released, the whole field of UI and UX actually became a thing, and people did what you guys are doing right now, which is formalized it and put frameworks into place. , that's where we now today have human centered design principles that people go back to and lean on, etc. So I'm delighted to hear that you guys are taking it further than just a book and actually building out those frameworks for companies to use.

[00:08:16] - Claire Haidar
Next question that I want you guys to dive into there for us is, can you share Dan, starting with you, three lessons that you've learned while writing this? What I'd really like you to hone in on, which I know is something that Doug wants to ask you so you can combine the two together is not just lessons that were kind of there at the surface level, but what are things that really surprised you and were kind of like, huh, didn't think of that?

[00:08:48] - Dan McClure
There's a sort of movie trope that, a couple living together and you think you know your partner and you've gone, 20 years together and then all of a sudden there's this revelation of new depths, the new dimensions that you never expected were there.

[00:09:09] - Dan McClure
I think when you're dealing with something like a couple like a complex space that you're trying to explain, it's like having that partner that you've lived with 20 years and you think you fully know, and then you write it out and, oh my gosh, there's something, usually a lot of some things that either the pieces don't fit together, you've got a gap, there's, you know a complex problem much less well than you think you do.

[00:09:45] - Dan McClure
I think that's been both for writing the book, but also maybe as a general principle of choreographers work. Even if you come in thinking, I've got this covered, I know this stuff. When you start getting into the complexity of thing, there's always more pieces there that you need to dive into and play with. Filling in those pieces and getting those right, that's been, I would say, the biggest unexpected challenge of trying to actually write down all the things we're working on.

[00:10:18] - Doug Foulkes
Has it not forced you, but has it enabled you to change your thoughts about exactly what a choreographer is and does?

[00:10:26] - Dan McClure
All the time.

[00:10:30] - Claire Haidar
Good, which means that you both being true choreographers, which is great to hear.

[00:10:35] - Hannah Reichardt
I was going to add one nice thing that I think we would like to build out in terms of that more system approach to the problem space that choreographers are working in. It's some kind of community actually. It's where choreographers can connect with one another and share ideas, because, A, we know that choreographers feed off that, and feed off that interjection of new fresh ways of seeing a problem, fresh ideas.

[00:10:58] - Hannah Reichardt
But B, some of this work is tough. You know, you're dealing with the gnarly, most tricky problems out there. , you need some support to do that. I think community of choreographers would be a brilliantly necessary thing.

[00:11:12] - Claire Haidar
I just want to say I couldn't agree more with what Hannah is saying there, because something as simple as I experimented with this in the company today and it yielded a very positive result, try these sequences of steps and the next day I experimented with this and it backfired really badly. Do not do this. You know what I mean? Just being able to have that simple conversation with a group of other choreographers would be so useful in these early stages.

[00:11:41] - Dan McClure
One of the things that's interesting about choreography is our approach to evidence and proof. By definition, we work on problems that you don't know for sure whether or not you can solve. You're always walking a little bit in the dark towards the edge of the cliff. One of the key jobs of a choreographer is to continue to believe when all reasonable sources of evidence are now gone.

[00:12:10] - Dan McClure
This, having faith in the absence of evidence is something that having another choreographer to talk to can be really good because you need somebody else who is as foolish and unreasonable about what the world could be as you to continue forward with that stuff.

[00:12:32] - Hannah Reichardt
I was thinking actually that maybe that's when Dan and I started working together, that was the big value for me. Not only Dan's ideas, when I was at the time working on a complicated humanitarian problem space to do with transitioning the delivery of aid from stuff, in kind goods to cash assistance in crises and started working with Dan.

[00:12:53] - Hannah Reichardt
I think it was that sense of, I know I'm onto something, but I can't quite prove that it's going to work. , working with Dan was able to give me such a lot of confidence that there was not only something intuitively there, but really systemically it made sense. So it was worth the perseverance, it was worth trying to find a solution, even though it wasn't like right in front of us at the time. So that, working with another choreographer, between us was just enormously powerful for the complex work I was doing at the time.

[00:13:25] - Doug Foulkes
Generally, we have a couple of just sort of short question and answers at the end, just to spice it up a bit. So I'm just, these are for both of you. I've got four quick questions. Why are the two of you working together?

[00:13:39] - Hannah Reichardt
I think the easy answer to that is we're really kindred spirits. We're not necessarily, obviously kindred spirits, but we were working completely different sectors at the time when we started working together. But Dan enabled to see what I was that I couldn't use the right language to identify it. When we started talking about choreographers, it was such a big aha moment for me. I have loved every conversation I've had with Dan ever since. That was about five years ago.

[00:14:05] - Dan McClure
There are a few more exciting things than finding somebody who can go thrash about in a big, complex problem with you. It is, I mean, it's why I love working with Hannah, but it's why I love working with other choreographers too. Just finding somebody who can be finding somebody who can do that with you and you're not having to fake who you are and you're not having to pull back. Huh, man, it's a rush.

[00:14:34] - Doug Foulkes
You've actually answered the next two questions. I'm going to basically, I think, finish it in less clear. You've got something quickly. I'm going to ask you, are there any sub-archetypes of choreographers or are you a choreographer or not?

[00:14:47] - Dan McClure
No, actually, so 20 years ago, before we really had concepts around the choreographer stuff, and we were really just beginning to try to figure out what this was all about. I was working in the IT industry and we were dealing with the disruption of the web and old industries like automotive and this intersection of big new technology things, an automotive industry.

[00:15:19] - Dan McClure
A group of us choreographers began to get together. But what we found was there was two versions of us. One version of us really liked the big ideas. We were always at the whiteboard, like drawing out things with circles and arrows and, making a big picture of how the world could fit together.

[00:15:40] - Dan McClure
Then there was a group of us that were on the phone to India, to Virginia, whatever, saying, all right, now, how do I make this work? So what we came up with the general term was there are choreographer visionaries and there are choreographer action heroes. They have a really great symbiotic relationship. But there is also a certain amount of the visionary looks at the action hero and says, "Boy, I'm glad I don't have to make all that stuff work." And the action hero is saying, "Well, at least I don't have to deal with all that abstract stuff." So pairing up these two types of big picture, crosscutting thinkers is really powerful.

[00:16:26] - Doug Foulkes
Are you two one and either camp? Are you the big picture?

[00:16:30] - Hannah Reichardt
I think I'm probably more of an action hero.

[00:16:32] - Dan McClure
Yeah, I'm definitely a visionary. But I would say Jenny, Hannah and I are all quite capable of playing across the line a bit. My definite side is the visionary stuff.

[00:16:51] - Doug Foulkes

[00:16:52] - Claire Haidar
Amazing. Guys, this is, yeah.

[00:16:54] - Doug Foulkes
I've got no more questions.

[00:16:55] - Claire Haidar
I've got a hundred more questions, but we're going to have to pause them for today. So Hannah, Dan, honestly, this was just a great conversation, can't wait to get this one out.

[00:17:07] - Dan McClure
Well, it's been great fun.

[00:17:09] - Hannah Reichardt
Yeah, this was lovely. Really good to speak to you both. Amazing.

[00:17:13] - Claire Haidar
Thank you so much.

[00:17:14] - Doug Foulkes
Yes. Fantastic From my side.

[00:17:16] - Doug Foulkes
And that is the end of episode 91 and our in depth look at the new role in business, The Choreographer. If you found this podcast of value, then please share it with your friends and colleagues. You can catch us on Spotify, Google and Apple podcasts or on WNDYR' s website. WNDYR.com and from Claire and myself. Bye for now.

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