Frank Barrett calls it "building cooperative capacity." It's an appreciative approach to working together, focused on the potential rather than the problem, the positive rather than the negative, the possibilities rather than the barriers.
Jazz is full of illustrations of the power of this approach.
Here are my reflections on just one of the insights Frank Barrett shares in Yes to the Mess, his new book from the Harvard Business School Press that links jazz with cooperative capacity.
Frank believes the way we inquire generates the way we are. If we are looking at all our problems, that focus will generate a certain set of attitudes and behaviours. If we are looking at all our possibilities, that focus will generate a different set of attitudes and behaviours.
The attitudes and behaviours generated by paying attention to problems first are defensive and constrictive. We hunker down into our bunkers. We search first for weaknesses and threats. We try simply to protect and preserve the familiar.
The attitudes and behaviours generated by paying attention to potential and possibilities first are courageous and expansive. We move into an open future. We search first for aspirations and BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals - thanks to Jim Collins for that acronym). We try to compose, construct, and build a better future. We take something old and together make it new.
Jazz musicians work this way. Watch this example:
Jazz musicians are driven by the possibility of innovation, either in creating something new within the musical tradition or interpreting an old standard in a new way. The past is very much appreciated, but it is treated as a foundation for building a different and better future. Each musician in the group has something unique and valuable to contribute to the construction and composition of that future. Each musician is respected for their capacity and trusted to contribute. Mistakes are made along the way, but they are seen as opportunities to learn better ways of performing together. There is joy, fun, mutual support, alignment, experimentation, engagement, and creativity - all coming together in a performance that inspires the cooperative capacity of both musicians and audience. All of this is beautifully evident in the Diana Krall clip from Eagle Rock.
As we say repeatedly at Jazzthink, everyone is a jazz musician because we all build cooperative capacity through conversations. They are the most common form of jazz in human experience. So you all know how to play jazz.
The real question, conversation after conversation, is how well you are honing your voices to create vibes that generate the values you want to be the world.
If we can do anything at Jazzthink - speaking, facilitation, or coaching - to help you discover the voices, vibes, and values that will help you build cooperative capacity, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.