As all great engineers do, Dan Harple sees the underlying connections and systems that are invisible to most. Of course, seeing existing systems tends to prod those with a bias towards improvement to imagine new models of intersection. While many imagine these perceived improvements only to then move on to their more quotidian concerns, people like Mr. Harple focus their every day on the creation and wide-scale distribution of these systems. A brief overview of Mr. Harple’s CV bears this out:

  • Co-founder of InSoft, which led to the development of the Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP), merged with Netscape, providing real-time communications to hundreds of millions of Internet users.

  • Senior VP of Netscape, during which time, Mr. Harple developed the first at scale commercial Voice-over-IP, which, of course, paved the way for countless implementations used today, with billions of Internet users.

  • Co-founder of Context Labs with musician/producer, Todd Rundgren, founded in order to recontextualize online media and to create a more rich user experience, collaborating on Rundgren’s patronet.com, the first online artist subscription service (1997).

  • Founder of Context Media, a seminal big data company, which created and set standards for interoperability between disparate and distributed digital assets. The company was sold to Oracle in 2005, forming the basis for Oracle Fusion, now with over 65,000 customers.

  • Co-founder of  GeoSolutions, B.V., which is focused on location based social networking for telecom.

  • Creator of GyPsii, a precursor to Foursquare, which facilitates real time mobile location based search, that has been widely adopted by China’s micro-blog app, Weibo, among others, with over 600 million users.

  • CEO of Shamrock Ventures, which now serves as Mr. Harple’s R&D think tank, developing new technologies and solutions to further enhance the Internet experience.

  • Musician, and a Berklee Trustee since 2013.

The clear point of intersection around the above is this notion of interoperability based on a set of standards and protocols that allow for a more fluid and rich user experience.

As Mr. Harple told me during our recent conversation, “The theme of my career has been collaboration and inventing technology based tools to enhance it. The work has centered on people (InSoft/Netscape) and data (Context Media/Oracle Fusion), places (Geosolutions/Gypsii), and now things (Internet of Things Supply Chain blockchain solutions with Context Labs 2.0.)”

It makes sense then, of course, that Mr. Harple is now devoting much of his time, and utilizing the knowledge gleaned from the above, to provide guidance and context with respect to the technological efforts of the Open Music Initiative.

Anticipating my conversation with Mr. Harple, I was fully expecting to be provided with a thorough debrief regarding the challenges and opportunities around systems and interoperability as it relates to the music industry. While we touched on this (and I will provide a more thorough debrief of this aspect of our conversation following the upcoming OMI Members Tech Summit), the focus of our conversation was on Systems... with a capital “S.”

While Mr. Harple’s humility made him a bit reticent to plumb the depths of this larger Systems thinking approach, he did relent to my genuinely inquisitive prodding, and provided a thorough summary of his overarching approach - one that advances beyond a tech-centric viewpoint, and instead offers a comprehensive method.

Mr. Harple refers to this method as “The Pentalytic Method,” derived from research he did at MIT as a Sloan Fellow and as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence.  This work formed what he calls Innovation Dynamics, and is at the core of the OMI’s structure and methods.

The five key ecosystem attributes that make up a Pentalytic System are:

  1. Industry

  2. Academia

  3. Government

  4. People

  5. Funding

Viewing projects, protocols, and initiatives through this Pentalytic lens allows for a truly Systemic approach, and is obviously precisely the type of broad lens the music business not only needs, but now demands.

This Pentalytic Method, while perhaps not entirely self explanatory, does, as do all instructive and useful methods that are based on and refined from actual work and feedback, reveal its applicability with relative ease.

As Mr. Harple states, “Just a tech play doesn’t do enough” as we attempt to utilize the OMI as a way to not simply analyze current music industry challenges and opportunities. Rather, this wider Pentalytic approach is what’s necessary. As Mr. Harple explains in his blog post A Call to Action, “the OMI is different by design”:

We used network graph theory and Innovation Dynamics: to understand how disparate “nodes” in a graph develop and foster “edges” (connections) to build a stronger network and drive the emergence of unprecedented levels of efficiency and potency. Our view is that efforts in this area in the past did not have this level of resilience, or interconnectivity. The efforts failed to grok this paradigm. The OMI is designed to improve on this earlier gap. It is in the deeper understanding of our ecosystem's connectivity that we eliminate failure modes of prior efforts.  

From my perspective, it is the Pentalytic approach that guides the OMI “different by design” methodology. As Mr. Harple and I discussed, the OMI is currently strong on certain of these elements - we have an incredible array of industry participants, and, obviously, our academic connections are strong. Similarly, as shown via the summer labs, our commitment to people/entrepreneurship is evident. Government and funding (and, to be clear, “funding” is not limited to venture-based contribution, but can be philanthropic in nature as well), are areas we are committed to developing.

As I wrote in one of my Dispatches on the Summer Labs, the energy that is emerging from these labs currently seems to be stemming largely from analogs or industries only orthogonally related to the historic music industry.

The OMI will continue to be guided by Mr. Harple’s Pentalytic methodology, and in so doing, will benefit from not only a focused framework, but from it requiring the inclusion of verticals that might otherwise be left out of the conversation.