Kind of Blue.
I’m in about the same place with jazz that I am with wine. I know a few terms, can tell great from good and seek the company of those who know more about it than I do. And once in a while I stumble on a classic. The other day I heard an NPR retrospective on one of the most celebrated jazz records of all time, Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue,” which has long been one of my favorites. Then within just a few hours a client sent me a link to “Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz” in which Frank Barrett riffs on what Miles Davis, among others, has to teach us. So naturally I’m thinking, “There’s a Drift in here somewhere!”
The music on “Kind of Blue” is unforgettable, but the back story is equally impressive. Davis brought together legendary players like Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane and others for an experiment in what’s now called “modal jazz.” No real structure, no written music — just a very general outline of where things might go. The result was that over the course of two one-day sessions –starting with nothing but talent, imagination and courage — the group developed and recorded both sides of a masterpiece album that we’re still talking about 53 years later.
So what does any of this have to do with our world? Plenty.
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We all seek to hire talented people but then chain them to linear roles and scripts. We not only allow them to stay in their comfort zones; we virtually confine them there. Miles Davis somehow knew better. He forced his team into an unconventional, uncomfortable arrangement. And it was that very discomfort that empowered them to do some of the very best work of their careers.
I’ve said many times in this space that being in digital communication and marketing today is all about navigating the unknown. We must navigate it internally within our company planning sessions, and externally in every customer interaction. Preparation for those encounters is a must, but what precisely are we preparing? “Kind of Blue” suggests that we’d be better served by planning the empowering environment, rather than continually polishing our own story and blowing our own horns.
Listen to “Kind of Blue” on the way to your next sales call. Then ask yourself, “Am I creating a space where we can all do our best, most creative work?” The results can be kind of great.