StartUp Tip #83: Jazz, improvisation and business

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I while ago, I asked an artist to do a replica portrait of a beautiful guitar he made for a client. When the replica painting was done, it was amazing but slightly different from the original portrait I saw.

I asked him why the slight difference and his answer was interesting:

“As an artist I can’t do the exact replica of my previous work because if I do that, then it’s not art anymore, it’s copy and paste. I prefer to do different artworks even though they may be similar to my previous work. Each art has to be different.”

As part of preparing for his TEDxGaborone talk, Nduduzo Makhathini rehearsed just over five times. We rehearsed once a week for five weeks. The interesting thing about those rehearsals is that even though we knew the idea of his talk, performance and the songs he will play, each rehearsal was different from each other.

My reaction after the third rehearsal was that of being anxious, because the more we rehearsed, we were not getting to that one “perfect” performance.

But after a while, I realised that art cannot be pinned down to one perfect performance. Art is creating various different versions of “perfect” performances.

Even at his TEDxGaborone performance, Nduduzo stuck to the structure of the rehearsals, but gave his performance with a slight twist to all the previous five rehearsals. The performance was perfect but slightly different.

Jazz is practiced over a thousand or perhaps a million different dimensions.

One song can have five or more different dimensions to it. I have learned that it is non-linear and non-predictable, and most of all, it is never perfect or rather there are different perfect dimensions to one song.

If you ask a jazz artist to perform the same song in five different venues. Each performance of the same song will differ.

Jazz is about solving problems, albeit musical ones most often created, deliberately, by the players themselves.

Nduduzo calls this improvisation. We make it up as we go along. We improvise and fix it as we play, sometimes live onstage.

The mastery of jazz is about an ever evolving exploration, with ever-changing conditions [players, key signatures, tempo, the audience].

It is past century versus next century.

The great sax player Branford Marsalis described practicing for jazz as means of increasing his options, if he could only play a riff in one key, what happens when the band shifts keys?

The best jazz classes on improvisation, emphasizes fluency across different circumstances.

Jazz is entirely about connections, references, cross-pollination, and the ability to shift on the fly.

Just look at our ever-changing world of business, communications and marketing and you see jazz at work.

The business world is changing ever so fast. The guys at Singularity University talk about exponential technology and the rapid change in technology and it’s impact in our lives.

Business is about fluency across different and changing environments.

What worked yesterday may not necessarily work today.

What works today may not necessarily work tomorrow.

What do you do then?

Like a jazz artist, you improvise, you fix as you go, you iterate, tinker, break, fix, repeat, drip by drip.

As Miles Davis has said: I’ll play it first and tell you what it is later.

An entrepreneur is someone who jumps from a plane without a parachute, and figures out how to build one on the way down.

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About Roche Mamabolo

Entrepreneur, Author, Dad. Passionate about Innovation and Creativity, Books, Poetry, Traveling, Theatre, Art, Music.
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