#53 Improvisation in jazz

Sometimes you encounter by coincidence a pearl, in this case an article worthwhile reading and more than worthwhile applying its recommendations. As you know, I am researching ’emergence’, the phenomenon where out of a network of interacting internal and external elements in the course of time  a coherent new pattern arises, that is unpredictable, unexpected, unplanned and irreducible to the separate parts. Emergence leads to innovation. But how?

I found that one of the antecedents of emergence is improvisation or experimenting. Rik Spann strongly promotes that idea, a.o. refering to Frank J. Barrett and his book Yes to the Mess.


Looking for more on improvisation in organisations I bumped into -again a Dutch- article on LinkedIn from Remco Bakker (2016) on innovation and improvisation.  And Remco led me to the original source of his article, again the thoughts of Frank J. Barrett, this time  in a 1998 article.

Barrett discerns seven lessons for organisations from jazz:

    1. Provocative competence: deliberate efforts to interrupt habit patterns;
    2. Embracing errors as a source of learning;
    3. Shared orientation toward minimal structures that allow maximum flexibility;
    4. Distributed task: Continual  negotiation and dialogue toward dynamic  synchronisation;
    5. Reliance on retrospective sense-making;
    6. “Hanging out”: Membership in a community of practice;
    7. Taking turns soloing and supporting.

One-by-one valuable lessons ……. I suggest: Read Barrett’s article !!!

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