“What is Groove, Yaron Gershovsky?” Lessons in Organizational Development from Jazz

This post is an adapted an extended version of the paper “Twelve-Tone Music Reloaded”: 12 Lessons in Rotating Leadership and Organizational Development from Jazz by Daniel C. Schmid and Peter A. Gloor, MIT, and founder of galaxyadvisors.com.

Recently, Jazz improvisation has become a part of the “Holy grail” in Organizational Development, above all under so-called VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) conditions. Effective leadership of the future will be based on relationship building, understanding complex group work, and diverse workforces. For future leaders, it will be key to gain a deeper understanding of the constantly evolving complexities of interpersonal, group and even intergroup relationships.

This article illustrates the core principle of COINs (Collaborative Innovation Network) of rotating leadership by the example of Jazz musicians, who take turns grooving together. These musicians are exemplars of team members seamlessly transferring the leadership role from one to the other, leading to a “flow” experience of superb quality for their audience. As we show, so-called “honest signals” from Jazz can play a key role for organizational development to create an “organizational groove”.

While COINs form when people from many different backgrounds, countries, and cultures get together to innovate towards a shared goal, Jazz musicians are special members of COINs, as they already share the same context to a large extent, and thus do not have to spend long hours to build a shared language and understanding. Also, COINs frequently collaborate over long distance using the Internet to form virtual teams, while Jazz bands normally share the same stage. Therefore, Jazz bands are “elite” COINs, sharing a privileged environment that “ordinary” COINs do not have. They thus are idealized role models and exemplars illustrating the key tenets that COINs using virtual collaboration techniques should look for to gain inspiration and deep insights.

“Your turn, Yaron!”

When I asked Yaron Gershovsky, musical conductor of the legendary American Vocal Quartet The Manhattan Transfer, during their latest European Tour in fall 2018, “how can you describe groove and are there “honest signals” of the audience that can be predicted?”, the internationally renowned pianist described it as follows:

Yaron Gershovsky, The Manhattan Transfer, JazzNoJazz Festival Zurich, 31 October 2018.

“Playing for an audience of 10 people or a thousand people has very many similarities. I view an audience as one being, may it be large or small. They all feel and respond as one to what they hear. They all can sense the player’s feelings. They sense the inspiration and they also sense the nervousness and insecurity if it exists. When soloing, you always look for this instance when you know that you “got” them. You grabbed their attention and they all are with you for the ride. It’s a great feeling! Like a “Runner’s High” … you could call it the “Player’s High”… This last European tour took me from Slovakia to Finland, from Sweden to Switzerland … the audience’s behavior was similar. It sensed my feelings and responded to them. Great experience!” (Yaron Gershovsky)

Imagine how ordinary listeners—and not only “Jazz aficionados”—can recog­nize Jazz standards by just focusing on different parameters: well-known melody-based tunes like “Girl from Ipanema” by Antonio Carlos Jobim differ a lot from standards with complex harmonic structures such as John Coltrane’s “Countdown” or Dave Brubeck’s “Take 5”, which achieved iconographic status with its 5/4 beat. The main issue is that the formal development of Jazz never can by predicted, as Thelonious Monk wisely mentioned a long time ago: “I don’t know where it’s going. Maybe it’s going to hell. You can’t make anything go anywhere. It just happens.” (Chinen 2018).

Transferring Ed Schein’s Iceberg Model

What about the idea of transferring this Jazz metaphor into an agile organizational design structure: Can this make sense at all, if Jazz itself is not predictable? In order to delve deeper into a corporate’s DNA, we propose to adapt Edgar H. Schein’s “Culture Model” to Jazz by aligning the three main musical components “melody”, “harmony”, and “beat” to his concept of surface and deep structure. Assuming that a Jazz tune always consists of these three fundamental layers, we suggest an agile organizational design that corresponds with the basic structures of a Jazz standard:

Fig. 1: Edgar H. Schein’s Iceberg Model transferred to Jazz

The screening of an organization can be tackled in an “outside-in” mode, such as moving from “surface” to “deep structure” in Ed Schein’s approach. He differentiates between “artifacts and symbols” (= “melody”: what can be heard at the drop of a hat), “espoused values” (= “harmony”: which requires careful listening to structures), and “assumptions” (= “beat”: the basic clock pulse of an organization). In the ideal world of jazz, these three factors come together and create this “flow” with the audience that Yaron Gershovsky has described above. What about the economic reality of organizations and their stakeholders?

Designing the “Organizational Groove”

We therefore propose that understanding the “DNA code” of an organization requires to identify all existing honest signals within a company. By using the “happimeter sensing system” which allows users to predict their mood through body signals with smartwatches (Gloor 2018) we aim to initiate a debate about combining “digital” and “analogue” signals to fully detect a corporation’s DNA. Aligning the three Jazz layers “melody” (= communication content), “harmony” (= structure and processes), and “beat” (lifecycle of a company) can be key to analyzing the different patterns within various organizations. In order to create a “corporate groove”, our goal is to take the next steps towards a theory of “organizational flow” to measure intrinsic organizational “groove”. This rollout may be supported by the happyimeter technology that can be deployed in an entire global corporation:

Fig. 2: Organizational Groove Design with Happimeter technology

Our goal is to take the next steps towards a theory of “organizational flow” in order to measure intrinsic organizational “groove” with sociometric badges (Gloor et al. 2013) and other devices that measure human emotions such as the new happimeter technology (Gloor et al. 2018). Thus, we get the perfect quantitative conditions to start measuring the growth of a company. In other words: “Organizational flow” is where the groove of an organization starts becoming effective!

References

  1. Adorno, T.W. Über Jazz, Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, Volume 5 (1936), pp 235–259 (article in German)
  2. Barrett, F. Yes to the Mess. Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz, Harvard Business Review Press, Boston 2012
  3. Berendt, J.E. Adorno, T.W. Für und wider den Jazz, Merkur, Volume 7, Issue 67 (September 1953), pp 887–893 (article in German)
  4. Berendt, J.E. Ich höre, also bin ich, in Vogel, T. (Ed), Über das Hören: Einem Phänomen auf der Spur, Attempto, Tübingen 1998, pp. 69–70 (article in German)
  5. Burow, O. How Organizations Become Creative Fields: The Jazz Band Model of Leadership and the Role of Improvisation, Zeitschrift für Supervision, Volume 2 (2004), pp 1–21 (article in German)
  6. Butterfield, M.W. Why Do Jazz Musicians Swing Their Eighth Notes? Music Theory Spectrum, Volume 33, Issue 1 (April 2011), pp 3–26
  7. Chinen, N. Playing Changes. Jazz for the New Century, Pantheon Books, New York 2018
  8. De Pree, M. Leadership Jazz, Doubleday, New York 2008 (2nd ed.)
  9. Fatzer, G. Van Maanen, J. Schmid, D.C. Weber W. (Eds.). Edgar H. Schein. The Spirit of Inquiry, Innsbruck University Press, Innsbruck 2019 (on print)
  10. Gloor, P. Colladon, A.F. Grippa, F. Budner, P. & Eirich, J. Aristotle Said “Happiness is a State of Activity”—Predicting Mood Through Body Sensing with Smartwatches. Journal of Systems Science and Systems Engineering, 27(5), 586–612, 2018
  11. Gloor, P. Oster, D. Fischbach, K. JazzFlow – Analyzing “Group Flow” Among Jazz Musicians Through “Honest Signals” KI – Artificial Intelligence, February 2013, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 37–43
  12. Hodson, R. Interaction, Improvisation, and Interplay in Jazz, Routledge, New York/London 2007
  13. Johansen, R., Leaders Make the Future. Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Oakland 2012 (2nd ed.)
  14. Kamoche, K. Pina e Cunha M., Vieira da Cunha J. Towards a Theory of Organizational Improvisation: Looking Beyond the Jazz Metaphor, Journal of Management Studies, Volume 40, Issue 8 (December 2003), 0022–2380
  15. Kidane, Y. Gloor, P. Correlating Temporal Communication Patterns of the Eclipse Open Source Community with Performance and Creativity, Computational & Mathematical Organization Theory. Volume 13, Issue 1 (March 2007), 17–27, 2007
  16. Lewin, K. Resolving Social Conflicts, and Field Theory in Social Science, American Psychological Association, Washington, DC 1997 (Reprint. Original Harper and Row, New York 1948)
  17. Lewis, R. When Cultures Collide. Leading Across Cultures, Nicholas Brealey International, London/Boston 2018 (4th ed.)
  18. Nemoto, K. Gloor, P. Laubacher, R. Social Capital Increases Efficiency of Collaboration among Wikipedia Editors, ACM Hypertext 2011: 22nd ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia, Eindhoven, NL, June 6–9, 2011
  19. Scharmer, O. Theory U: Learning from the Future as It Emerges. The Social Technology of Presencing, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Oakland 2016
  20. Scharmer, O. The Essentials of Theory U: Core Principles and Applications, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Oakland 2018
  21. Schein, E. Schein P., Organizational Culture and Leadership, Wiley, Hoboken 2017 (5th ed.)
  22. Schein, E. Schein P., Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Oakland 2018
  23. Schmid, D.C. Gloor, P. (2018) “Twelve-Tone Music Reloaded”: 12 Lessons in Rotating Leadership and Organizational Development from Jazz Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Collaborative Innovation Networks (COINs), Suzhou, China, Sept 26–28, 2018

Artificial Intelligence or «R.U.R. – Rossum’s Universal Robots»

No other topic actually seems to be as hot as artificial intelligence and robotics. Indeed, it’s anything but new: Already in 1920, the Czech writer and playwright Karel Čapek addressed the assumption of power by artificial beings in his novel «R.U.R. – Rossum’s Universal Robots». The name of the play stands for a company that produces artificial humans (so-called Androids). These Robots, a neologism of Karel’s brother Josef Čapek, are used as cheap and lawless workers. Their targeted and massive use in industry changes the entire global economy over time. In the course of the play, however, the art people rebel and destroy the entire human race:

«My dear Miss Glory, Robots are not people. They are mechanically more perfect than we are, they have an astounding intellectual capacity, but they have no soul.» (R.U.R., 1920)

Source:  1938: The first attempt at science fiction on television aired - a BBC adaptation of Karel Čapek's Rossum’s Universal Robots. https://twitter.com/bbcarchive/status/962619743277432832.

In the 1930s, the clouds over Europe became darker and darker. After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, many intellectuals and writers had guessed what the political development in Europe was heading for. Čapek also had a highly sensitive perception of current events. His anti-war drama «Bílá Nemoc» («The White Plague»), written in 1936/37, was created in the gloomy atmosphere, in which two highly different characters face each other: The Dictator who infects the people with his demagogic speeches with the virus of mass psychosis – the «White Plague» (aka «Morbus Chengi») – and Dr Galen, a doctor who is aware of the value of human life and can cure the disease. The Dictator orders the doctor to come to him after his best friend, an armor magnate, has contracted the «White Plague». He asks Dr Galen to save his friend. The doctor only wants to do it under one condition: Armament production has to be discontinued. The dictator refuses.

«If you could rule people through fear, you wouldn’t need war. Don’t you think most people are afraid? Yet despite it there’ll be war – there’ll always be war.» (Bílá Nemoc, 1937)

 

This is where the clasp closes to R.U.R., especially as the National Socialist robots prove just as murderous and should plunge the world into the abyss. Čapek himself died of pneumonia on 25 December 1938, only a few weeks after the fatal Munich Agreement and just three months before the Germans invaded Prague on 15 March 1939.

Further movie information (in Czech): bila-nemoc-narodni-filmovy-archiv

History doesn’t care about «Ctrl Z»

Today, exactly 20 years ago, I started my career as a scientific collaborator in one of the most ambitious and controversally discussed historical projects Switzerland has ever launched: The Independent Commission of Experts: Switzerland – Second World War, also known as «Bergier Commission» (www.uek.ch).

SRF Arena, 22 March 2002

After thousands of pages, various oral history interviews, and 30 scientific publications / studies, it can be stated that all these analogue signals we collected between 1996 and 2002 are still vibrating today, namely in a digital manner.

These vibes can actually be found in the Media Archive of Swiss Radio and Television (SRF). As well, Memoriav, the Association for the Conservation of the Audiovisual Heritage of Switzerland, with its outstanding data collection called Memobase, the digitized resources at the Swiss Federal Archives, Berne, and the Archives of Contemporary History at the ETH Zurich, are perfect entry points to delve digitally into Swiss contemporary history.

The recent report «Backup for Posterity» (3Sat, 3 May 2018) shows that 90 percent of all  data has been generated in the last two years: the volume of digital data generated by our modern society is literally exploding. How can this data survive? What form of memory is there for our digital legacy? The main question is, which data is worth collecting and which is not. Above all, history the Queen of Analogue doesn’t care. Let’s put it this way: History itself will always be analogue because the human brain can’t voluntarely press a <Ctrl Z> key combination to reset its past experience. In other words:

History will never die because to <forgive> doesn’t mean to <forget>: Up to now, there’s no human way to push the Holy Digital Knob called <Undo>!

 

PS: Feel free to contact me if you want to learn more about working in a globally organized virtual team in the beginning era of digitized research.

Find specialists? With the right spirit!

Local Agenda 21 Solothurn and its partner organisations (including the Solothurn Chamber of Commerce) organise the annual event «Business Apéro für Unternehmen mit Durchblick». In three papers and a short panel discussion, it was shown how SMEs can deal with the challenges of the shortage of skilled workers, education and the world of work 4.0. Dr. Daniel C. Schmid from the HWZ University of Applied Sciences in Business Administration, Zurich, spoke about analog and digital signals in companies.

Solothurner Handelskammer: «9. Wirtschaftsapéro für Unternehmen mit Durchblick», Balsthal, 1 February 2018

Regional employers give lectures in Balsthal. The topic of the shortage of skilled workers was discussed in detail. These are not rosy prospects: The canton of Solothurn is particularly affected by the shortage of skilled workers. More than half of the companies that advertise jobs could not or could not fill them as desired. More than 300 spectators gathered at Jomos to listen to presentations and a podium on this topic.

https://www.solothurnerzeitung.ch/solothurn/kanton-solothurn/fachkraefte-finden-mit-dem-richtigen-spirit-132157382#

Paolo Conte: The Stars of Jazz in the Night of Fascism

Paolo Conte, Festival da Jazz, Pontresina, 28 July 2017

Paolo Conte was affected by jazz when this style of music was banned by the fascist regime. This experience has shaped the Cantautore, who will perform at the Festival da Jazz on 28 July 2017 (original article in German, published in NZZ, 27 July 2017. Copyright photo: Matthias Heyde, www.festivaldajazz.ch).

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«Time-Span» and the «Midlife Crisis» of Organizations

Time-Span

Have you ever heard of Elliott Jaques? If you haven’t, don’t worry, because hardly anyone knows him. But for sure, you know the term «Midlife Crisis», don’t you? Guess now, who has coined the phrase? Bingo!
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«From Competition to Compassion»: What connects Led Zeppelin with Digital Learning 4.0

led-zeppelin-pop-art-ppcorn1

INPUT: The Initial Situation

Until a few years ago, learning processes were practically exclusively aimed at acquiring knowledge and skills through accumulation, especially in music, shown by great bands like Led Zeppelin. Knowledge was essentially based on an inductive experiential and personal reflection competence, as Goethe already knew in “Wilhelm Meister’s Lehrjahre”: Continue reading