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Leading Teams - Insights from Jazz

I recently read an interesting paper on Leading Entrepreneurial Teams – Insights from Jazz authored by Ucbasaran, Lockett, Humphreys.

In considering the generic question ‘How is leadership enacted in creative teams operating in dynamic environments?’   Ucbasaran et al examined Jazz to understand how teams innovate, create and improvise.  The paper looked at diversity, potential conflict and three key leadership themes: i) team formation, ii) team coordination, and iii) managing team turnover; examining three jazz leaders - Ellington, Davis and Blakey.

A common finding was that jazz leaders sort diversity as a means of fuelling creativity – recruiting a diverse range of individuals with broad knowledge sets and alternative perspectives.  This would often bring about the challenge to manage two forms of conflict - Functional (also known as cognitive) conflict is task-oriented and arises from differences in judgment or perspective. In contrast, dysfunctional conflict (also known as affective conflict) is emotional and arises from personalized incompatibilities or disputes.”

Here I highlight the three key points:

Team Formation to create something radically new requires bringing together musicians known for their individual creative flair and let the opportunity, referring to the music, emege through the creative process.  Davis, with his drive for musical innovation, would often choose individuals who did not know each other and had not worked together and therefore become familiar.

Similarly to Davis, Ellington would not start with a clearly defined opportunity but rather sort what emerged from the raw materials – referring to the diverse members of the band.  Comparing Ellington’s approach to selection to that of a painter; using a range of different colours to create a picture.

Blakey, in contrast to Davis and Ellington, had a clearer notion of the opportunity upfront with his own and chose his team members to fit in with this, the attraction for team members was that they would be nurtured, creating a musical opportunity with Blakey providing educational guidance.

Secondly and summarising briefly here, Team Coordination is required to ensure that the players are given just enough structure to innovate within, an environment where mistakes are not punished, tolerating differences and letting players express themselves.

The final theme, Team Turnover, is a way of teams adapting to wider environment changes.  Their evidence suggesting that team member departures are a common feature of highly diverse, creative teams. Departure, or in Davis’ case disbandment, allows injection of new knowledge and skills into a team.

An interesting paper please see the link here.