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Jazz and Company: a metaphor for a new Art of Collaboration

Minimal Structures, Improvisation, Harmony and Vital Energy can do more and better for your company than Cost-Cutting, Laying off people, Reengineering and Delocalizing!

Discover a New Art of performing successfully together in your company through Creative ConsulTeam’s “Jazz & Management Workshop”

Why do we need new metaphors?

  • Because we live in a VUCA world. The belief that we operate in a certain and predictable world is a fantasy that Society can no longer afford.
  • Because Pyramids, Silos and Empires are being replaced by Hubs and Networks, new Value creation flows, cross-sector collaborations. This is a true organizational rupture. We have moved from a Vertical world – based on centralisation, standardisation, command and control – to a Lateral world based on distributed Leadership and Creativity. Organization must move from rigid to agile, in other words, from silos to combos. 
  • A new Art and Science of Collaboration is needed to get talented people – and especially the new “Y” Generation – to think, work and act creatively and effectively as teams and networks, cross-silos, cross-cultures, cross-disciplines and cross-sectors.
  • We need Creative Collective Intelligence: new ways to tap on all the Knowledge and Creativity at our disposal. This requires new way to CONNECT people and let them collaborate so that they can generate more than the sum of the parts.

This is the Mayonnaise metaphor: simple ingredients – salt, paper, oil, an egg yolk, Mustard – and then, the magic of an “emulsion” which allows the mayonnaise to emerge.

This is what Jazz can bring. A Jazz “Combo” is the perfect metaphor of a new Art of collaboration deeply needed in this new world and based on values that truly serve Innovation and Value creation. The Jazz combo metaphor introduces a better way to look at our turbulent times than the symphonic orchestra. It is the living embodiment of the principles at work in organisations that are performant, innovative, inspiring, adaptative, resilient, able to accept risk and navigate in an ocean of uncertainties.

From the Symphony Orchestra… To Jazz Big Bands and/or Jazz Combos (combination of musicians)

We propose to look at the organisation through different “lenses”

  • From the symphonic orchestra:  Pre-scripted music scores, single conductor as Leader , “Top Down” control system,  no improvisation
  • To the Jazz Combo: Evolutive repertoire, Leader and Peer Culture , musical direction,  some prewritten scores , a lot of creativity in real time and Improvisation

The Symphony Orchestra metaphor was acceptable up until a recent Past! What we like to call the “Jack Welsh” era. One “conductor”, deciding on the repertoire, the tempos and all the rest of it, conducting a team of “anonymous” professional musicians, having obtained first prizes from renowned conservatories, who just have to read scores and obey the conductor’s directions on “interpretation”. Von Karajan’s Beethoven is not Ormandy’s Beethoven, and Previn’s Mozart is not Barenboim’s.

Yet, the orchestra’s format remains the same, violins and altos to the left, cellos and double basses to the right, winds, brass and percussions in the center. And the conductor on a podium, back to the audience with or without a baton! Maximum formality, minimal freedom. Maximum Command and Control!

How does this fit with the Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous world as it develops today?

Not at all!

The age of Jazz Combos has arrived! An age where Focus and Freedom has replaced Command and Control, where Master musicians get together around a project like a “combo” (a trio, a quartet, a quintet and other forms) for the satisfaction of playing together and generating income i.e. the reward of the pleasure they bring to audiences.

A Jazz Combo is the metaphor of an organisation designed for maximum performance and improvisation. They perfectly know how to “make the mayonnaise”.

A combo is a group of “Creative Actors” involved in the dynamic process of “Creativity in Real Time” – Exactly like a team- i.e.:

  •  A group of diverse specialists or “masters” 
  • Working in chaotic and turbulent environments
  • Making fast irreversible decisions
  • Highly interdependent of one another
  • Fabricating and inventing new responses without a prescribed plan and without certainty of the outcome

How do they do it? Focus is key, Freedom is vital, collaboration is the essence

Musicians have a sense of purpose. What drives Jazz combos? To give a great performance to the public. As Miles David said: “transmit a profoundly felt emotion with a Min Fuss, Max restraints.”

Among the vital “Jazz” principles which can be applied to Business Development and Success thanks to this metaphor are

1) How Jazz Combos “combine” Focus and Freedom for successful performance:
  • Musicians agree on WHAT tunes they are going to play and the audience they play for (The customers) 
  • They know the harmonic structure of the piece which defines the sequence of chords
  • They all agree on HOW they will play: what key the tunes are going to be played in, what will be the tempo (slow, middle fast, fast) •
  • They all agree on the type of rhythm (Swing, Latin, 3 / 4, 5 / 4 etc.) 
2) The new “Art of Collaboration and Coordination” Jazz Musicians develop, based on “Minimal Structures” and values such as
  • serving the WHOLE
  • shared performance
  • replacing Ego by “Alter Ego” in a Peer Culture of mutual respect
  • taking turn soloing and supporting
  • active Listening and Spontaneous Reacting
  • synchronized and coordinate efforts according to shared goals, values and minimum structure
  • they are passionate about music and enjoy playing together
3) The way in which, when playing, Jazz musicians are guided by freedom in action
  • Improvisation or Creativity in Real Time (creating at the spur of the moment, with years of preparation, sensitivity and disciplined imagination)
  • Anticipation and Thinking Ahead
  • Risk-taking and use of mistakes to learn and evolve
  • Support and development of “momentum” (the groove)
4) The importance of developing Mastery through Preparation, Learning, Practice, Rehearsing.

Before and after concerts and “gigs”, musicians listen, inform themselves, study and practice, in order to improve their skills and Mastery of their instrument. They de-brief, comment, suggest, recommend…

Building a sustainable creative organisation: Focus and freedom for Collective Creative Intelligence

Now, if we think of your organisation ……In a revolutionary context.

You need an organisation that would be robust and organic, with a shared sense of purpose, a core to anticipate, to accept risks and uncertainty. And build a capacity to recover ! That’s about focusing and liberating the creative actors in the dynamic process of Value creation.

The elements that constitute the essence of jazz combos are good metaphors of what happens – or could happen- in organizations.

The same questions need an answer

  1. What is our purpose?
  2. Where do we play? What is our “Business arena? what issues do we want to contribute to?
  3. What value do we want to deliver?
  4. To whom?
  5. How do we win ? What is our Strategy and our Innovation portfolio?
  6. At what tempo? What is The sense of urgency? 
  7. What are our capabilities? The Skills, know how experiences, attitudes and aptitudes we need to master and develop. In the “Knowledge Economy”, it could very well be that the capacity to “create” and “manage” Knowledge (informations, ideas, concepts, talents etc.) could become one of the keys to Success and Performance. Imagine your organization made of ad hoc “combos”, composed of expert “musicians”, all agreeing on the tune they are going to play (the project they are going to work on), on the key they are going to play it in so that Harmony is generated at each stage, and selecting the best tempo to reach success in the best possible time.

See, Feel and Understand the logic and dynamics of Jazz.

And reap the benefits! Creative ConsulTeam’s “Jazz & Management Workshop” invites you to take part in an experience, with a commented live concert, which will allow you – and other people you wish to invite

  • to discover the Art of “Structured Improvisation” at work 
  • to feel it and reflect on it
  • to understand how you can apply and practice it in a Business Environment for enhanced performance and pleasure.

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