Vadim Kotelnikov  

Jazz Up Your Ability To Innovate

Manage a delicate and dynamic balance between guiding structure and improvisation


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To jazz up your ability to innovate, turn to jazz. Many innovative corporations are now working with the arts community. They bring jazz musicians to teach improvisation within a guiding structure. Leading companies challenge the status quo and encourage creative out-of-the-box thinking and improvisation mixed with pragmatic business judgment. There is a clear structure to good jazz, so create a clear guiding structure. Then establish a creative chaos environment within this structure to liberate people, encourage improvisation, and trigger accidental discoveries. The accidental discovery is triggered by chaos, experimentation and contradictions, rather than by order and logic.

Find the Right Balance Between Structure and Chaos

You need a certain amount of chaos to be creative but not to the point that you feel overwhelmed by its amount. Too much uncertainty discourages people from mobilizing their best effort. Direction, purpose, and the right amount of structure create freedom. People feel liberated by goals and guidelines.

Practice Loose-Tight Leadership

Leading innovation is a delicate and challenging process. You need to encourage expansive out-of-the-box thinking to generate new ideas, but also filter through these ideas to decide which to commercialize. Use a balanced "loose-tight" style of leadership for this purpose. Alternate the creation of space for idea generation and free exploration with a deliberate tightening that selects and tests specific ideas for further investment and development.

Looseness usually dominates the early stages of the innovation process; in the later stages, tightening becomes more important to scrutinize the concepts and bring the selected ones to the market. A balanced approach is essential to loose-tight leadership. Those who remain loose too long generate plenty of ideas but have difficulty commercializing them. Those who are too tight confine innovation to incremental line extensions that add little value... More