[JPL] “Creativity & All That Jazz,”

Paul Combs pcomb at comcast.net
Sat Nov 5 23:35:29 EDT 2011

I have always maintained that the time when the music is happening is 
the closet thing we have to utopia. Thanks bor posting this Dr.


On 11/4/11 9:31 PM, Dr. Jazz wrote:
> http://bangordailynews.com/2011/11/04/business/jazzy-business-seminar-%E2%80%98seriously-uncharted-territory%E2%80%99/?ref=videos 
> By Matt Wickenheiser, BDN Staff
> Posted Nov. 04, 2011, at 12:56 p.m.
> Editor’s note: It is recommended that readers listen to Miles Davis’ 
> “The Birth of Cool” while reading this story for the optimal sensory 
> experience.
> PORTLAND, Maine — The jazz quartet started playing, and people stopped 
> talking. A rolling drum beat moved the music along, an upright bass 
> supported the foundation, the keyboard filled in the holes and a 
> piercing saxophone lifted the music higher.
> As the four musicians played off each other, each took a turn driving 
> the melody — catching each other’s eyes as they shifted tempo or 
> volume, trusting their fellow artists as the music evolved on the fly.
> It was, according to organizers of the recent seminar, the perfect way 
> to “draw imagery and connections between jazz performance and business 
> performance.”
> The seminar, “Creativity & All That Jazz,” was the brainchild of VTEC 
> Training of Portland, which hosted the event, and Backbeat Creative 
> Strategy, a consulting firm based in Dover, N.H.
> With about 30 people in attendance, the idea was to use how the jazz 
> quartet operated — and some of the history and structure of jazz 
> itself — as a way to illustrate and stress key business principals 
> including evolution, creativity, leadership, relationships and 
> decisiveness.
> It was, said Frank Laurino, chief strategist at Backbeat, “seriously 
> uncharted territory.”
> Laurino and John Rogers, director at VTEC, had talked about trying to 
> do this sort of business leadership seminar for a while. VTEC mostly 
> provides technical training, including in-depth work on specific 
> programming languages and the like. But Rogers said he has wanted to 
> move into broader discussions around leadership, creativity and other 
> key concepts.
> “Jazz performance has a lot to teach business about how to apply 
> creativity, so it’s not just this fluffy concept,” said Rogers. 
> “Creativity is something you can learn, practice and apply to 
> practical things in a business place.”
> The idea was sparked after Laurino read an autobiography of Bill 
> Bruford, who was a drummer with bands such as Yes and King Crimson. 
> The book, said Laurino, made a number of observations on life, 
> relationships and parallels between running a business and running a 
> band. So Laurino and Rogers decided to try a seminar that drew the 
> parallels in a live setting; Bruford attended, as well, and spoke to 
> the people there.
> During the evening, Laurino played drums in the Matt Langley 
> Quartette, while Rogers spoke at the podium. Rogers spoke about jazz 
> great Miles Davis, and how he grew “Cool Jazz” out of the foundation 
> of bebop. While Davis continued to evolve, he always had his signature 
> sound on trumpet, said Rogers.
> He likened it to Apple, with its constant evolution from iPod to 
> iPhone to iPad — with the “signature sound” being the “i.”
> Both Davis’ jazz and Apple’s product development provide examples of 
> how evolution happens, while remaining true to the foundation they’re 
> built on, Rogers suggested. In the case of Apple’s example, the 
> foundation is not radically altered, but new markets are opened.
> The group looked at how jazz courts the unpredictable. Until the notes 
> come out of the saxophonists’ horn, there’s uncertainty as to what 
> will be played, but it’s up to the rest of the band to play off that 
> sound, respond to it. The jazz musician, said Rogers, is forced to 
> foresee change.
> Businesspeople, on the other hand, appreciate long-range forecasts, 
> predictability.
> “But if expectations are your master, you’re not open to change. It’s 
> the tyranny of expectation,” said Rogers.
> Laurino added that businesses need the structure and flexibility but 
> also need to keep a constant eye toward re-invention. Otherwise, he 
> said, you end up being the last company producing buggy-whips. The 
> goal in business, he said, is to introduce more creativity into the 
> stable environment.
> Another concept Rogers introduced was that big ideas come from small, 
> creative actions. Practice, or rehearsal, for a jazz quartet 
> represents a continually applied small, creative action, he suggested. 
> When Davis started toying with the idea of cool jazz, it started with 
> the introduction of a mute to his trumpet — a small, creative act, 
> said Rogers.
> In the business world, he pointed to Isaac Singer, whose name is 
> immediately connected to the sewing machine. He didn’t invent the 
> sewing machine, but he applied the concept of interchangeable parts to 
> the machines, dropping the prices. And he invented the payment plan 
> and the trade-in plan, said Rogers. He also aimed the product at a new 
> market — homes. Each of those innovations were relatively small, 
> creative steps that moved the business forward.
> The group also touched on the idea of leadership, both in terms of 
> setting a direction and in terms of allowing workers to have the 
> authority to be creative and move the company ahead.
> To illustrate, Rogers asked band leader and saxophonist Matt Langley 
> what the overall vision was for the quartet. It was, said Langley, to 
> “apply a jazz vision to current music.” As an example, the band began 
> playing a jazzy version of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.” But Laurino, on 
> drums, didn’t get the vision, and was pounding out a dance-floor beat. 
> Langley had to tell Laurino to listen to the other musicians, to get a 
> sense of the direction of the song.
> In the same way, said Rogers, a company leader needs to offer 
> guidance, share a vision of what the business is doing, and why. That 
> leader must allow people to think, observe, engage in trial and error 
> and produce, he said.
> The process of creating jazz is unlike that of rock, classical or 
> other music forms, said Rogers. Jazz musicians share leadership and 
> authority with each other, passing it off as the music dictates.
> “In business you have to allow people to lead in their position, if 
> you want to take advantage of the creativity that’s inherent in being 
> human,” said Rogers.
> And each musician must react quickly as the music changes, noted 
> Laurino, “in real time — no debate, no focus groups, no consensus.”
> “It’s one-two-three play,” he said, relating that concept to 
> decisiveness and action in business.
> Arthur Fink, a photographer and creativity-communication consultant 
> from Peaks Island, said he found the presentation a little choppy, but 
> “intellectually, it’s very powerful.” The presenters, he said, gave 
> people the space to play around with the idea of the jazz-business 
> relationship.
> Eric Piskura, a social studies teacher at Marshwood High School, said 
> he thought the concepts were valuable to him as a teacher in a system 
> that’s going through accreditation.
> So many of the metaphors people use for business tend to be 
> sports-related, he said. Jazz is a refreshing change from that, 
> proving that sports “is not the only modality.”
> Rogers and Laurino said they were hoping to do more such seminars in 
> the future; different takes on how to communicate leadership concepts.
> “People have many avenues to where they learn — a lot of people don’t 
> learn well by being talked at — we want to display a practical 
> application,” said Rogers. “Listening to music, talking about 
> concepts; it goes by the barriers.”

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