Soundview Executive Book Summaries


Jazz Up Your Business Creativity

What do Jazz music and business innovation have to do with each other? Not much unless you’re Josh Linkner. Josh is a Berklee-trained professional jazz guitarist, CEO and Managing Partner of Detroit Venture Partners, and Adjunct Professor of Applied Creativity at the University of Michigan. His jazz experience is the inspiration for an innovative approach to stirring the creative juices in business, an approach that is captured in his best-selling book Disciplined Dreaming.

In a series of blogs back in 2010, Josh drew upon his jazz roots to explain six creative sparks from the world of jazz. Check them out:

  1. Trading Fours – There’s a fun improvisational technique in which jazz musicians alternate short, four-measure solos appropriately named “trading fours”. This technique can be a powerful way for you to spark your own creativity. Instead of four measures of jazz melodies, you’ll be trading ideas and concepts around your Creative Challenge.
  2. ContrastOne of the most engaging elements of a great jazz solo is contrast. Great solos are not turned on and off with a switch; they develop and build, weaving in and out while telling an exciting story. Great business improvisation is no different. By exploring contrasting elements, you will find a wellspring of creative inspiration.
  3. Mixing it up If you listen to jazz group playing the same song every night for a month, it will never sound the same twice. Mixing it up not only keeps the music fresh for audiences, it keeps the musicians fresh with new ideas. The same is true for you and your creative project. Mixing things up will not only help you overcome the blank page with exciting sparks, it will help throughout your creative endeavors.
  4. Lean on the Masters When learning the art of jazz, students not only learn technique but spend a significant portion of their study learning from the masters. In business, start small by learning one or two approaches or ideas from only one legend in any field (business, art, science, politics, etc) and see if you can apply the same approach to your own creative challenge.
  5. SubstitutionsGreat jazz musicians love to substitute one thing for another. Like a chef who decides to swap out one ingredient for another, jazz musicians find fresh ideas by “subbing it out”. You can also put this technique to use to generate sparks of inspiration. Substitutions are easy to use, and can open up fresh perspectives and ideas. Think about your creative challenge as several unique and inter-connected parts. Then, simply take one part at a time and try swapping out something fresh.
  6. Jazz is also about listening. Listening to your fellow musicians, the audience, and your own creative voice. In business, that means listening to your team, your customers, your competitors, your industry, your suppliers, the latest trends and best practice, and of course, your own creativity. Through focused listening comes adaptation.

You can learn more about spurring creativity by joining our Soundview Live webinar with Josh Linker, How to Drive Breakthrough Creativity, on September 30th. Bring your questions for Josh and who knows, perhaps he’ll bring his guitar.

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