On Jazz, Diversity & Change Management

A Fusion of three beautiful worlds!

The 30th of April marks the World’s International Day of Jazz Music, which inspired this article about some of the things I find interesting about Jazz and how they relate to the world(s) of change advisory:

The word Jazz itself means energy, flowing energy! The musical energy of Jazz as a genre was influenced mainly by two converging sources: The blues with its spiritual depth originating partially from chants of Congo immigrant slaves who used to work as farmers in the fields of southern US! The other source is ragtime; an African-American style which was the rock and roll of the 1890’s & was so distinct from every kind of music that preceded it.

The fact that the development of Jazz was deeply rooted in and influenced by fragmented experiences of a discriminated segment of society can tickle rebellious change-oriented parts of the brain and nudge them to blossom! It can equally however tease the sneaky prejudices in our frontal lobes and challenge them softly. A nice metaphor for this interplay can be a solo segregated saxophone waking the rest of instruments up into a beautifully integrative expression such as the one in this song.

In an attempt to analyse what are some of Jazz unique qualities that could be copied into organisational contexts, I find it characterised by 3 significant elements:

(1) By a specific degree of improvisational freedom in a band, where sometimes even contradicting autonomous performances still support the larger performance.
(2) By polyrhythmic openness for adaptation to local cultures it landed in, such as latin-jazz, afro-cuban jazz, west-coast jazz, free, modal, among many others.
(3) By an endless quest for breeding gradual harmony and provocative coordination between listening to others and having fun contributing to the collective communication!

Although this introduction might seem more of a proponent’s view to Jazz, which is unintentionally so :), many other worthy knots in Jazz composition and in Jazz history can be reflected upon in retrospect! Musical historians might or might not agree with my perceptions here of course, yet, I find those elements collectively turning Jazz songs into sorts of statements igniting conversations with more integrative perspectives; socially, economically, politically, and/or in other more or less specific contexts. Especially with the inherent call and response pattern that signifies the interactivity of Jazz melodies with its surrounding!

A few years back, I started noticing some analogies between Jazz and business process engineering contexts.

Change agents dealing with multi-layered complexity of transformation projects in organisations might indeed learn a lot from Jazz musicians, I am making this bold claim although my musical skills are not that efficiently developed yet to play and entertain listeners.

To my surprise though, I discovered that I wasn’t the only nor the first person to notice the link between the two fields, many other pioneers in the field did! Dr. Mathias Kirchmer in his Book Process Excellence dedicated a full chapter for Jazz insights for process management excellence. Scheer and many others as well wrote about Jazz and its potential impact in various change management contexts.

But since I am a novice fan of swing, I want to elaborate on one example of how it might symmetrically identify with the concept of Donella Meadows’s Dancing with Systems!

Here is a quick reminding sketch I drew for Meadow’s concept:

How does the three concepts relate to each other? will be explained in a post to follow…

An organizational designer dedicated to the thrivability of people, communities & orgs, & who is inspired by the challenges of our era! #learning #culture

An organizational designer dedicated to the thrivability of people, communities & orgs, & who is inspired by the challenges of our era! #learning #culture