Even music soloists know that great music is about collaboration – whether it is with a song, singer, or other accompaniment. One of the defining essentials of jazz music is improvisation. Musicians who compose on the fly have an instinctual ability their peers both idolize and envy.
For instance, a Miles Davis trumpet solo is a feat in and of itself – but also blends well into group settings. The only way to learn how to improvise is by doing it repeatedly. Playing intuitively takes practice.
As saxophonist Charlie Parker has said, “You’ve got to learn your instrument.” Listening is a huge part in jazz. Because improvisation depends upon others, musicians must pay very close attention to everyone else. In meetings, listening is underrated. Notice small things like body language and tone. That can give insight into what they are really saying. For example, if there is hesitation or discomfort – try to figure out ways to make people more comfortable. That will encourage people to contribute.
Be original and try not to be repetitive. Just as innovation is key in jazz, so it is in today’s business environment, especially since there is so much competition. Besides, there is nothing more boring in a meeting than people who continually repeat themselves. As the saying goes in Hollywood “Thou shalt not be boring.” The opposite of boring is inspired – and that’s just what you want the team to be. Otherwise, you have a bunch of people who just cannot wait to get back to their desks.
When jazz musicians inspire each other, an instrumentalist may play a group of notes that support or motivate soloists. For example, if the tempo is suddenly cut in half, the soloist may be spurred on to fill that space. In a meeting – why not engage everyone there and pose an interesting question. You’d be surprised at what you could learn when you transfer energy.
One great way to foster that type of collaboration is by having meetings in an invigorating environment like a well-appointed meeting space – with lunch, of course!