Robert J. Fritz, January 2010
|Born||1943 (age 69–70)
|Alma mater||Boston Conservatory|
|Occupation||Management consultant, author, composer, filmmaker|
Robert Jordan Fritz (born 1943 in Cambridge, Massachusetts) is an author, management consultant, composer, and filmmaker. He is known for his development of "Structural Dynamics," the study of how structural relationships impact behavior from individuals to organizations. His books, starting with The Path of Least Resistance, develop the theory and application of Structural Dynamics and the creative process.
Robert Fritz studied music composition and theater at the Boston Conservatory of Music where he earned a BM and MM in composition. He also studied on scholarship at the Darmstädter Ferienkurse, Germany. He studied cinematography at Maine Media Workshops (formerly Rockport Workshops).
In the late 1970s, Fritz, Peter Senge, David Peter Stroh and Charles F. Kiefer founded a management consulting firm. Fritz's study of music composition, along with his close contact with Senge's work in system dynamics, became a major influence for his exploration of the relationship of structure to behavior. His books on Structural Dynamics are based on his work with Blue Shield of California, La France, Harvard Vanguard, IBM China, and Ortynsky Automotive, among others. Fritz has worked with the Swedish governmental agency Vinnova. He has consulted with the US Department of Defense on issues of terrorism, and has also introduced his work to the US Air Force and Department of Transportation. The Managerial Moment of Truth, co-authored by Fritz, was chosen as one of BusinessWeek's best books of 2006, and Harvard Business Review placed it on their executive reading list.
Fritz has created two separate careers, one as a consultant and the other one as composer and filmmaker. As a composer, Fritz has won commissions from groups such as Collage and Dutch Radio. He has composed music for film, TV, and theater, as well as CDs. Two of his arrangements appear on Celtic Ladies, which topped Billboard Magazine (2007-2008 World Music).
Fritz has made documentaries for government, industry, and television, has written and directed three feature-length films, has directed and co-hosted Creating (a TV series made for a Canadian network), and directed episodes of the PBS series LeaderTalk, for which he also composed the theme music. Fritz wrote and directed the TV series Vermont Stories. He created the multi–media work She Was A Dancer for the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center. Overload, a 2009 narrative feature film written and directed by Fritz, won several awards, including an Indie Spirit Award in Recognition of Distinguished Accomplishment from the Boston International Film Festival.
Structural Dynamics is the study of how structural constructs lead to predictable behavioral patterns, otherwise known as macrostructural patterns, the long-range patterns that reoccur in a person's life. Two basic patterns can be observed: oscillating and advancing. These two predictable patterns occur in quite specific and unique ways; and in each instance the same steps and the same sequence can be observed in every aspect of personal and professional life. The oscillating pattern emerges when a person, team, or organization takes action to accomplish a goal; and after achieving the desired result a reversal occurs. Examples illustrating this sequence include the business success that eventually leads to a financial loss, the great love that ends with a break-up, the successful project that turns into an undesirable predicament. In contrast, the advancing pattern creates momentum when outcomes are achieved, and accomplishment builds a platform for future success.
Structural Dynamics has been used extensively in corporations, education, and third-world development. The Uganda Rural Development and Training Programme (URDT) adopted this approach as its fundamental operating principle. In 2009, URDT won recognition for its programmes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for Changemakers Cultivating Innovation: Solutions for Rural Communities.
Structural Dynamics has also been used in public school systems as chronicled in School Leaders Building Capacity from Within (Corwin Press) by Burrello, Hoffman, and Murray. Peter Senge featured Fritz's structural approach In his book, Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, as well.
Underlying structures cause these behavioral patterns. The basic structural unit is the "tension-resolution system". In musical composition, harmonic tension behaves as a structural dynamic when it seeks resolution. Similar tension-resolution systems appear in behavioral macrostructural patterns. In the oscillating pattern, opposing tension-resolution systems dominate, and "non-equilibrium" occurs when the desired outcome is achieved. Structurally, the opposing tension resolution system remains and resolving it requires moving away from the achievement. In the advancing pattern, a single tension-resolution system dominates, and equilibrium occurs by achieving the desired outcome, the structural point at which the desired state and the actual state are equal. From these observations, this principle was developed: the underlying structure of anything determines its behavior. Without a change of underlying structure, change efforts fail, and the original behavior patterns reoccur. This explains why many sound change efforts fail within organizations. Organizational oscillating patterns occur when building up capacity, then downsizing, then building up capacity again; or centralizing decision making, de-centralizing decision making, and then centralizing it again; or focusing on long-term growth, then refocusing on short-term demands, and later refocusing on long-term growth again. When an underlying organizational structure leads to oscillation and remains unchanged, the structure rejects any change effort in a similar way that a body rejects an implanted organ. Conversely when a change of underlying structure designed to support advancement occurs, any subsequent change effort increases the likelihood of success and sustainability.
The creative process
Fritz developed his ideas about the creative process from the arts rather than psychology, making a distinction between the creative process and creativity. Creativity usually focuses on idea generation and comes from suspending the norm. However, Fritz argues that to advocate withholding critical judgment in favor of free association, brainstorming, or other systems in an effort to bypass the usual thought processes will not guarantee successful creativity or accomplishment of the goal. In the arts a consummate professional must produce consistent quality outcomes and meet rigid deadlines. Rather than freeing the mind, an artist focuses the mind, often by using structural tension—the relationship between two related data points. With repeated application and refinement what was once the unusual then becomes the usual. A desired outcome or goal, the first data point is contrasted with its relational current reality, the second data point. As the creative process begins, a difference exists between the desired state and the actual state, and this difference creates a useful tension. The composed tension is not psychological nor is it associated with stress, anxiety, or pressure. Rather it is structural. Clarity about the desired outcome and the actual situation, establishes a structural tendency that moves the structure toward tension resolution; and strongly motivates the best actions to achieve the desired outcome. The actions may be conventional. But often inadequate resources limit the conventional means to accomplish goals. Therefore, invention and innovation emerge naturally bringing forth new ways to accomplish goals. Fritz argues against glorifying inspiration. Professionals can create irrespective of their circumstances. Ideas about structure and the creative process fundamentally underscore Fritz's observations that like other structures, the mind seeks equilibrium. By nature, the mind desires a state of equilibrium and attempts to create order out of disorder. Fritz advocates using the mind to compose a structured state of non-equilibrium (structural tension) in order to originate new ideas. The mind then generates structurally relevant ideas which do not emerge using usual thought processes.
Problem-solving vs. creating
Fritz argues for a distinction between problem-solving and creating. Problem-solving is taking actions to have something go away: the problem. While problem-solving has its place, as a persistent approach, it limits accomplishment. The elimination of a problem does not mean that the desired result can be created. As distinguished, solving a problem does not by design lead to a creation. Creating is taking action to bring into being that which does not yet exist: the desired outcome.
Digital decision making
Fritz invented a process which enables decision-makers to discern seemingly enigmatic situations with a laser-like clarity.
A decision is divided into structural components and digital values are assigned to them. A rigorous structural analysis follows that organizes the components. This process normally takes about twenty minutes or less, and quickly illuminates the decision-maker's goals, values, competing influences, and other complexities.
- Fritz, Robert (2007). Elements: The Writings of Robert Fritz. Newfane Press. ISBN 978-0-9725536-4-3.
- Bodaken, Bruce; Fritz, Robert (2006). The Managerial Moment of Truth: The Essential Step in Helping People Improve Performance. Free Press. ISBN 978-0-7432-8852-1.
- Fritz, Robert (2003). Your Life As Art. Newfane Press. ISBN 978-0-9725536-0-5.
- —— (2011). The Path of Least Resistance for Managers Revised and Expanded Second Edition. Berrett-Koehler. ISBN 978-0-9725-5366-7.
- —— (1996). Corporate Tides:The Inescapable Laws of Organizational Structure. Berrett-Koehler. ISBN 978-1-881052-88-3.
- —— (1993). Creating: A Practical Guide to the Creative Process and How To Use It To Create Anything. Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-449-90801-3.
- —— (1989). Path of Least Resistance: Learning to Become the Creative Force in Your Own Life. Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-449-90337-7.
Media & music
- Overload - 2009 feature film (written and directed by Fritz)
- Boston International Film Festival - Indie Spirit Special Recognition Award
- Los Angeles Reel Film Festival - Honorable Mention
- Honolulu Film Festival - Aloha Accolade Award for Excellence in Filmmaking
- Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood - Award of Merit for Narrative Feature
- Accolade Competition - Award of Merit
- Los Angeles Movie Awards - Award of Excellence (television), Best Original Score, Best Screenplay, Best Actress
- Creating - Canadian television series (directed and co-hosted by Fritz)
- Celtic Ladies
- The Little Pinecone - Audio CD (Story and music by Fritz)
- Elmer's Extraordinary Christmas - Audio CD (Story and music by Fritz)
- The Top - Audio CD (Story and music by Fritz)
- Goldsmith, Marshall; Kaye, Beverly; Shelton, Ken (2010). Learn Like a Leader: Today's Top Leaders Share Their Learning Journeys. Nicholas Brealey Publishing. pp. 173–176. ISBN 978-1-85788-557-6. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
- Works by or about Robert Fritz in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Robert Fritz discography at MusicBrainz
- Robert Fritz at the Internet Movie Database
- Uganda Rural Development & Training Programme