SMARTer Conversations

Jazzthink's Take on Productivity

Three crucial elements come together to create productive teamwork:

  1. a rich and fertile environment of people, purpose, and process
  2. that generates sustainable and valuable results
  3. through creative and effective activities.

Jazzthink provokes this kind of productive teamwork. We call forth wisdom, capabilities, and commitments that already exist within your team and stimulate the full realization of your team's potential for productivity.

With Jazzthink's engaging mix of music, conversations, coaching, and practice, your team will experience a clarity of purpose, a vision for collaboration, and practice in productivity that will generate success in what matters most to you and your organization.

The 5 Kinds of SMARTer Conversations

At Jazzthink, we have been provoking people for almost a decade to identify the beneficial lessons about great teams they can learn from jazz. We've kept a full record of their answers to the question of what qualities of great teamwork they see in a jazz performance and used that wisdom as the basis for our ongoing research into the dynamics of productive teamwork.

Our acronym SMART enables people to remember the kinds of conversations that generate productive teamwork. These kinds of conversations are often happening simultaneously in our brains and intermingling in our communication with others. Understanding their distinct focus and impact, however, will greatly improve your performance in building productive teams.

We want to provoke you to be:

Soulful when talking with themselves about strengths and potential

The way you show up in your conversations with others is profoundly affected by how you have been talking with yourself. Is your self-talk positive or negative? Does it focus on your gifts and strengths or on your deficits? Are you generating a healthy self-appreciation or a toxic self-deprecation? Clearly, talking with yourself in a positive, strengths-based, appreciative manner will prepare you for resilient and respectful conversations with others.

Mindful when cultivating positive relations with others

The way you pay attention to the impact of your words, tone, and body language in conversing with others profoundly affects your ongoing relationship with them. What people take away from a conversation is how you made them feel. Are you being inspiring, encouraging, and supportive in cultivating positive productive relationships with all the other members of your team? Are you building robust alliances that will weather the storms of challenging conditions? Clearly, talking with others in enthusiastic and engaged ways will strengthen the team's productivity.

Astute when analyzing and deciding wisely with others

The way you use your conversations to know better, decide better, and act better is crucial to the productivity of your teamwork. Being curious in your conversations about what others value most, what they think about the situation, and how they imagine best responding in the situation will generate a breadth and depth of wisdom unattainable by you as a solitary individual. Clearly, many brains are better than one in both understanding and producing in the increasingly complex environments in which your team operates.

Responsible when generating mutual accountability with others

The way you use your conversations to build an agile and aligned team of people who are mutually accountable to and supportive of each other is decisive in achieving optimal productivity. Are there clear and respected processes in place to both hold people accountable for their responsibilities on the team and provide them with the support they need to do their job as best they can? Clearly, helping people be accountable in mutually supportive ways sustains the team's productivity.

Trusting when monitoring continuous improvement in collaboration

The way you use your conversations to monitor and measure the momentum of your team is foundational to getting the results you want. Much of this happens in informal conversations, often in what appear to be interruptions. How are you using every exchange with your team members to ensure that all these kinds of conversations work together for the benefit of your whole team? Clearly, keeping all these elements in mind as you talk with your team will greatly enhance its productivity.

If, like Duke Ellington, you see your team as your instrument, whatever role you play in the team, then learning and practicing the 5 essential conversations of SMARTer TeamworkTM will greatly enhance your value to and enjoyment of your team's work and it will make your team far more productive.


We've just published a 16-page booklet outlining the core benefits and processes – the 5 essential conversations – that will generate SMARTer teamwork. Every participant in a Jazzthink gig will get one as a core chart of what they can carry forward into their teamwork. You can download the e-booklet version to use with your colleagues byclicking here.