Creative Sparks from the World of Jazz – Part 3 of 6

Earlier this week, I launched a six-part blog series on techniques from the jazz world that can be easily translated to driving business creativity. Jazz music is all about spontaneous creativity and improvisation – skills that are critically important in the business world. The first posted covered a technique called Trading Fours. The second post was on Contrast. Now let’s look at the third technique – Mixing it up.

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. A core aspect of jazz is trying new things and keeping your work fresh. One way to accomplish this is to change styles. For example, one night a group may play the classic jazz standard “All the things you are” as a medium-swing. The next night it may be played in a smoking-fast bebop style. The next night as a slow and touching ballad. Another session could feature the song with a groovy Latin feel.

In addition to the feel and style of a song, jazz groups often play around with instrumentation. One night may include the entire combo on the song, while the next night features only guitar and saxophone. The order in which the musicians take turns soloing frequently changes to keep it fresh. Perhaps one night the piano player begins the song and plays the first three or four minutes alone with no accompaniment by the other musicians, creating a cool contrast when everyone else begins to play along.

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. Here are some ways to mix it up:

• Use a different room for each brainstorming session
• Alternate who is the facilitator each day
• Begin each session with a different warm-up exercise
• Change the order of your meetings around frequently
• Conduct your meetings at different times of the day

In addition to the context of your meetings, you can also try mixing up your idea flow. For example, you may challenge the group to focus only on the very beginning of your creative project, and later challenge them to only focus on the ending. You could have the team generate small, incremental, safe ideas one day and the next day switch to giant, audacious, world-changing ideas only. Maybe one day your generate ideas only for a certain type of customer, and the next day you go for the opposite. One session could focus on low-cost solutions and the next could focus on expensive ones. The key is to mix it up like jazz musicians to unlock hidden gems of creativity.

Look for Blog post 4 of 6, entitled Lean on the Masters, coming next…