MusicBuzAustralia.com have a great article written by Joy Medley Park answering the question
Can music-making create better business organizations?
A large part of the article is a neat summary of how the JazzCode applies to business -- written by someone with deep understanding of both business and music. I met Joy this summer when she attended a workshop I did for her company in the U.S.
Joy Medley Park has written an insightful summary of what organizations can learn from music.
Why would business corporations which focus on 'hard' performance
measures like profits and market-share spend resources to enable their
employees to make music?
Because it can improve innovation, strengthen leadership and teamwork,
and assist in both recruiting and retaining talent.
Innovation, leadership and teamwork - Jazz improvisation as a
Recently, a global management consulting firm's top 150 experts gathered for a conference to talk about the future - the future of their own organization, their clients, and the strategies and behaviours that would be necessary to thrive in an increasingly complex business world. Innovation, leadership, teamwork and globalization and complexity were all on the agenda. The keynote speaker was not an economist, or an organizational psychologist, or a futurist – it was a musician -- Carl Stormer, creator of JazzCode. Carl pulled together a jazz ensemble who provided a repertoire of real-time musical examples showing how the process of innovation and high performance happens in music. Carl showed the audience parallels between what a Jazz ensemble actually does to create a successful performance, and what each member of his audience, all leaders in their own area of business expertise, actually do when they have to innovate, lead, change, and shift their cultures or ways of behaving to adapt.
Here’s a quick synopsis:
1. Work with simplicity on the smallest scale possible to do the job
Carl keeps his band as small as possible – bass, piano, sax and drums. Getting four people to play together is relatively easy (“we fit in one cab”) and each time another player is added, complexity grows exponentially. In business, the same is true – go ‘lean’.
2. Manage talent around the scarcest resource and leverage their
The first talent Carl hunts for in creating a pickup band is the double bass player – because they’re in the shortest supply, and therefore probably heavily networked into the piano and sax community – their network will surface the best of the other players. Take this into a business context, and manage the staffing (or production) around the scarcest element – whether it’s specialized engineering knowledge, deep customer relationships, or a physical commodity.
3. Use ‘shared references’ to speed performance excellence
Jazz band profitablility is partly determined by how little non-paid time they have to invest and still meet performance standards. Good jazz ensembles use ‘shared references’ to reach agreement on the style and approach they’ll use for each piece – quickly. Shared references are their common knowledge of, and reference to the ‘great’ perfomances and recordings of the ‘standard’ jazz repertoire. By leveraging this musical shorthand they can identify and shape their joint performance in minutes rather than hours..
Shared references are key in business teamwork contexts, both on a macro level in understanding their particular organization’s culture and values, as well as on a micro level, where a team can be thrown together with minimal prep time, and by virtue of exposure to common ‘best practices’ and well articulated frameworks, they can reach a higher level of implicit ‘wisdom’ in less time than a team without shared references.
4. Recognise and support the role of leader
Each of the players in a jazz band is the leader and expert for their instrument. They follow a predetermined structure in the order they do their solos, their supporting role when they’re not taking the spotlight, and the etiquette that’s followed that ensures the performance has smooth hand-overs. Leadership surfaces amongst all players at the appropriate time.
There’s a common myth in business that leaders are actually in that role because of some personality characteristics – that leaders are born, and that ‘once a leader, always a leader’. Reality doesn’t support that. Leaders exist in a unique business context – and leaders often lead from behind. Good top-executive teams know when to support, when to push, and how to spot and nurture up-and-coming talent. In reality, leadership in business is a lot more like the jazz ensemble, with intellectual ability balanced by emotional and relational ability.
5. Acknowledge when complexity is good and when it’s bad
Newly formed pick-up bands tend to stick to a repertoire of ‘standards’ – and keep it simple. If one soloist is going out on a limb and trying some risky improvisation, the rest of the band will keep it simple. Simplicity is good. Complexity is good too, sometimes – where a band has been together for a while, they can take more risks, and enjoy more complexity – the best improvisations happen when the band ‘knows’ each other well, and that intimacy can create an amazingly good, complex, rich musical result.
Recent research has revealed that as business becomes more global, complexity increases dramatically. Complexity – the difficulty in getting things done - can be expensive and can erode value. But complexity can also be good – used in the right way, it can protect a company’s competitors from copying its products, and it can deliver a finely customized service that commands a high value.
Carl has taken JazzCode to many corporations and Business Schools throughout the world.
JazzCode will be in Australia in October 2008.