John Kao is an educator, entrepreneur, film maker, and jazz pianist. In Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity (1996), he talked about the importance of improvisation and innovation for today's organizations:
"In jazz - and in business - the improvisational style derives its power from the way it juxtaposes certain vital human tensions, or paradoxes. Here's a partial list of them, in no particular order:
· The established (tradition, powers that be, status quo) in tension with the new.
· The need for form in tension with the drive for openness.
· Critical norms and standards in tension with the need to experiment.
· The security of the familiar in tension with the lure of the unknown.
· Responsiveness (responsibility) to the group in tension with individual expressiveness.
· Discipline in tension with freedom.
· Power in tension with desire.
· Established theory in tension with persistent experimentation.
· Expertise in tension with freshness, naïveté.
Jazz music is called improvisational because it doesn't try to resolve those tensions. It is impervious to recipes, to formulas. It's satisfied (if that's the right word) to live in them - to 'work' or 'play' them - for all they're worth. In classical music, the inspiration of composition leads to the sweat of rehearsal and then the decisive event of performance. In jazz, these three phases become indistinguishable parts of the same process. In jazz, and in business jamming, rehearsal is performance, performance rehearsal." John Kao, Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity (New York: HarperBusiness, 1996), pp.32-33.
Jazz, Kao continues, favours the right side of the paradoxes listed, while business too often is stuck on the left side. What create shared improvisation that respects both sides of the tensions are candid and creative conversations.