My uncle-in-law (or how do you call the uncle of your husband?) is a piano player in the Dutch Swing College Band. The fact that we have never gone to hear them play will show how much we care about jazz music... (he is the fourth from the left side). If you want to listen to their music there's a webcast from their appearance on Barend en van Dorp. The person who forced us listen to jazz was Nii Ofuso in Takoradi, who was our Fanti teacher and had an hour jazz on the radio on Monday evenings. He would often tell us to listen because he would send us greetings on the radio.
But that's a long introduction to a really great article on Creativity and improvisation in jazz and organisations (I forgot where it was posted; I printed it and took it later from the pile of papers). I'm intrigued by the power of CoPs to stimulate innovation and creativity (it may even be the only reason why I'm so attracted to CoPs). And Frank Barrett neatly unpeels some of the dimensions of creativity in jazz and translates that into very solid recommendations for organisations. His parallels are really good.
He looks at
- provocative competence
- embracing errors
- shared orientation towards minimal structures that allow maximum flexibility
- distributed task
- reliance on retrospective sense-making
- hanging out in a community of practice
- taking turns soloing and supporting
(but these terms will not tell you much unless you read the paper).
For instance, the deliberate attempt by jazz musicians to guard against reliance on habits and patterns that worked in the past is his inspiration to point at the compentency trap: the tendency to become competent as an organization and to loose the edge of experimentation. Breaking routines (and that's what some technologies can do as well!). Organisations should encourage small disruptions and incremental re-orientations to sharpen perceptions and activate thought processes.
He also notes that most studies of organizational behaviour have a rational-cognitive orientation. The experience of synergy etc. would warrant further study, for instance the role of supportive relationships in drawing out one another's latent capacities.
" To foster learning, organisations must see beyond conventional, anonical job descriptions and recognise the rich practices themselves." I thinkthis is true for so many professions today, where managers are not sufficiently in touch with the practices or fail to see them.
He provides all kind of advices for organisations like "organisations must go beyond merely inviting new voices, but must also create processes that suspend the tendency to criticize, judge, express disbelief that might kill a nascent idea"
I will definitely add this one to my favorite articles. In a meeting somebody suggested a delicious tag called top10; I could start using that to be able to trace your favourites easily over time.