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The Jazz Process

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The Jazz Process

Collaboration, Innovation, and Agility


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

How is your business like a great jazz band? Consider the magic meld of individual creativity and teamwork.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


Adrian Cho leads a jazz orchestra in Canada when he isn’t developing IBM software. Now he wants to tell you how Miles Davis can change your business life. Cho touts jazz units such as Davis’ immortal, innovative bands as models for high-performance teamwork. He derives 14 best practices from observing that standout performers in good jazz groups work together in an environment of alert listening and mutual respect to make great music off the cuff. He doesn’t limit his examples to jazz, finding combo cognates in basketball, auto racing and the military. The upshot is a concept of leadership and teamwork that’s well suited for the Google-age workplace. Alas, the text is dense and the graphics aren’t very helpful. Trying to parse the earnest but process-heavy prose may make you play the blues. Still, getAbstract recommends this innovative book to human resources professionals, executives and managers needing new harmonies, and employees who know they could make a better contribution if only someone would let them play a solo.


The Joy of Collaboration

Humans have always collaborated, but simply adding more people to a work effort doesn’t necessarily mean higher productivity. The real goal is to create synergy, which is more likely to happen when a group is small – a five-member basketball team, a jazz trio – and members contribute at their peak. Envision your work as a collaborative artistic performance by studying the example of jazz. These musicians fashion their product on the fly by maximizing individuality, minimizing rules and listening to each other. Their pivotal skills include innovation and improvisation, which require on-the-spot composing and reacting to unexpected changes in the music. Being able to improvise is crucial in today’s business climate, and so is having the collaborative agility demonstrated by a good jazz combo.

Software code developers follow a set of rigid rules to maximize stability, but a jazz trio follows looser rules that deliberately encourage instability. Effective team building requires clear rules and a cooperative mentality that works within appropriate guidelines. Instead of enforcing a statutory code, provide axioms that embody a way of doing things...

About the Author

Adrian Cho is a software development manager for IBM and a jazz bassist who directs the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra of Canada. A former management consultant, he covers teamwork at

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