Jazz and the Art of Collaboration

Jamming together in NO MAD Land 

"Jamming Together". A powerful metaphor of Creative Collective Intelligence

A Jazz "Combo" is the perfect metaphor of the new Art of Collaboration which is so deeply needed in this new world.

It allows for a better way to look at our turbulent time than the symphonic orchestra image. It is the living embodiment of the principles at work in organizations that are performant, innovative, inspiring, adaptative, resilient, able to accept risk and navigate on an ocean of uncertainties.

From Silos to Combos

The new world is based on new Value creation flows, transdisciplinary and cross-sector collaborations.

Pyramids are replaced by Hubs and NET-WORKS that work.

Silos need to become "Combos", i.e. collaborative ecosystems of Partners creating sustainable Value chains which deliver Prosperity.

To be Fit for the Future, organizations need to move from rigid to agile.

This is the Collaboration imperative

A new Art of Collaboration is needed to get talented people to work creatively and effectively as teams and networks, cross-silos, cross-cultures, cross-disciplines and cross-sectors.

The issue is how to focus and motivate people at all levels to put their Minds on key issues and to initiate solutions designed not only to improve but also to reinvent and transform processes.

Collective Creative Intelligence is needed.

How can we make the "mayonnaise" that will lead to the creation of new Knowledge and Value, thus true Collective Intelligence, versus the serious risk of Collective Stupidity?

It is known that gathering a group of people, even very intelligent, is not enough! At the world scale, we can even say that, collectively, we generate results that nobody wants!

So, what can be done to avoid all the traps that lead to the opposite of Collective Intelligence: Ego, lack of Listening and of Dialogue, absence of Shared Focus, Territorial Conflicts, fights for Positions and difficulties to change Perspectives, lack of Imagination, Competition, Fear of Losing etc.

We need new glasses to look at this new world and liberate the capacities required to build a better one together! 

Jazz as the Perfect Metaphor!

Beyond and above all popular beliefs, Jazz has been the incarnation of an Ethic and a Practice of Collaboration for over a century. It can be a source of Inspiration for all those who search for better ways of working together, in teams and in networks. The popularity of Jazz has reached a point where the best Universities in the world have made it a field of study, like Harvard University which create a Jazz Chair in 2016. 

In short, Jazz is much more in sync with our turbulent times than the Symphony Orchestra. It symbolizes the Art of Collaboration. It offers a metaphor which makes it possible to switch from "silos" to "combos", from the Vertical world of "Command and Control" to the Collaboration models of the Horizontal world. 

The symphony orchestra connotes

  • Pre-scripted musical scores, everyone looking at "his specific score" (Violins, cellos, horns, etc.) 
  • Single conductor as Leader 
  • "Top Down" control system 
  • No improvisation

The jazz Combo embodies

  • Sharing an orientation toward Minimum structures that allow for maximum Flexibility and Creativity
  • Replacing Ego by Alter Ego in a Peer Culture
  • Taking turn soloing, supporting and swinging together
  • A maximum of improvisation and Creativity in real time

The Jazz metaphor is going to change your perception and lead you towards these new practices the world so desperately needs to successfully meet unusual challenges and open new trails to the Future

Our Jazz & Collaboration workshop: an exclusive, concrete and living experience

Our "Jazz & Collaboration Workshop" invites you to take part in an exclusive, concrete and living experience, with a commented Live concert, designed to transform the participants mindsets and approaches

 Our workshop illustrates on the one hand the theoretical links which exist between Jazz and organizations and on the other hand, demonstrates those links through a "live" concert given by a combo reuniting 4 of Belgium's top musicians plus Jean-Louis on the bass.

This live module's objective is to enable the audience 

  • to discover and feel a new Art of Collaboration based on Focus and Freedom, active Listening, Improvisation and Creativity within a structure
  • to understand how you can apply and practice it in a Business Environment for enhanced performance and enjoyment

The origin

For years, we have been helping organizations and teams invent and implement their Future. This activity always proceeds through the creation of ecosystems of partners engaged in collaborative, joyful and trustful Thinking and Experimentation.

A few years ago, Jean-Louis - who is a renown and appreciated amateur Jazz double bass player (he has recorded several albums and played with the best musicians including Toots Thielemans with whom he recorded the "Demo for singers" acetate of "Bluesette" in New York back in 1964 - and Aline (who loves Jazz) put their talents together to develop a workshop based of the principles of Jazz and designed to transmit this original Art of Collaboration in an original and "live" way.

 It works !

We tested our workshop for the first time in 2011 with a group of 70 researchers coming from different organizations and working on common projects. And several times after that with groups composed of a variety of specialists, highly interdependent and belonging either to the same organization or to different ones.

Every time, results were impressive.

One of our fondest memories is when our workshop was selected as opening event of the Summer University of a large international group, gathering the most promising 120 young people from all over the world.

We also closed the event, but this time only the two of us, in order to gather the participants' impressions on the impact the Jazz Module had had on their performances during the week. We were moved by all the signs of appreciation we received, including taps on the back, hugs, applauses, thumbs up, whistles etc. We also got comments like: "Without the Jazz metaphor, we would never had been able to "play" so well together through the various sessions of the week. Thank you" etc. etc. 


The workshop is made of 3 happening over a one-day period (8 hours)

· Listening, Discovering, Understanding, Appreciating and Interacting

  • Mini theoretical explanations
  • Live performance of a Jazz Combo (combination of musicians) to demonstrate a variety of possibilities.

The performance is accompanied by commentaries on what is happening. Duration 90 minutes

  • Interactive session with participants

2. Connecting and Learning by Induction: group work

  • What the metaphor teaches us about collaboration, improvisation, Creativity and Innovation
  • Connections and parallels

3. Integrating and apply: Group session and feedback

  • How to apply these principles (soloing and supporting, peering, minimal structures, improvisations etc.) in the specific context of a team or an organization
  • What changes to implement in order to create suitable conditions for improved performances and heightened shared pleasure at work?

Listen to en episode on the Shapership Podcast in which Jean-Louis talks about Jazz is a form of miracle of human relations.Jazz means that people who've never met before can get together, having never played together, and can play in a very constructive, fun and interesting way. Although they have not rehearsed, they have not played together before.

You go anywhere in the world. You're a musician. You go to a jazz club and you say, hello, I'm a trumpet player, saxophone player, bass player from Belgium. May I sit in with you guys and play? And they usually say oh, yes, and ask you, the guest, what would you like to play?

And there you are. You're playing together. You don't even know their names.
And it works.
What can we learn from this?
And what does it have to do with #Shapership?
Jean-louis answers these questions and talks about his deep connection with jazz in this episode of the Shapership podcast