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Here are a few jazz concepts to help you and your team advance creatively, or at least have some fun. Let's revisit the jam session and see what happens behind the music.

1. Risk: The drummer tried something different (took a risk and felt the freedom to do so). Sometimes our leadership style can be so controlling that it stifles the creativity of others. If we hope to work together in a way that produces fresh ideas and creative results, our team members need to feel free to improvise.

2. Listening: The bass player heard what the drummer was doing and changed the notes and rhythm. Listening to what's happening around you (what others are saying or how they're reacting) can take you in a new and more creative direction.

3. Collaboration: Because there's no sheet music and no conductor in jazz, the success of the song is dependent on everyone's contribution. Everyone must be actively engaged and doing their part. This results in spontaneous and beautiful teamwork.

4. Awareness: Eye contact and body language are keys to great jazz performance. Jazz musicians watch each other, smile, nod, and sometimes use hand gestures. Nobody ever taught them these signals, they just picked them up. Why? How else would you create something beautiful without sheet music and a conductor? All you have is each other, so you have to be watching, listening, and observing.

5. Sensitivity: Have you ever wondered how jazz groups bring a song to an end? After all, there's no sheet music or conductor to signal the final note. But they just do. They know when the song is over. They feel it and sense that they've done all they can do, and have enjoyed every moment. No one yells out over the music, "We are going to end the song now!" There's no need. They've been on an experiential journey. They've been literally in tune with each other, and they just intuitively know when it's time to move on to the next song.

Perhaps there's a jazz musician trapped somewhere inside of you. Maybe it's time to release the controls a bit and give it a shot. The flipside is that maybe there are some of you that have been playing a little too much jazz lately and it's time to sit down and create some sheet music (i.e. writing out a plan and sticking to it). Leading with jazz is not always the best answer, but neither is playing only classical. The key is to know when to switch styles in order to match the leadership situation.

Final question: was Jesus more of a classical or a jazz guy? Hmmm … there's something to think about.

Scott Olson is President and CEO of International Teams www.iteams.us, a nonprofit that's passionate about delivering an authentic Gospel that fully integrates mission and compassion through Integrated Community Transformation. As a professional saxophonist he brings a sense of jazz and creativity to life and leadership. Follow Scott on Twitter at @scottolson101 or email him at president@iteams.org.

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Posted: November 12, 2012

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Displaying 2–6 of 15 comments

Scott Olson

November 20, 2012  10:53am

Thanks for the encouragement Brian. I too have wondered about those "parable's" (always felt like jazz to me :)

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Brian Holley

November 20, 2012  8:36am

Thanks Scott. Inspirational. I know a little of how such improvisation feels and how much individual work has to be done before a musician can work like that. It imspires the thought that Jesus may have been a jazz musician at heart for he rarely quoted scriptures but improvised parables to explain what was on his heart.

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Scott Olson

November 13, 2012  4:56pm

Hi Everyone, since this was my first time to write for LJ (what an honor and a privilege) I am a real rookie at knowing if, how, and when I should respond to each post. I have really appreciated the comments, encouragement, insights, and humor. It means a lot. I'm going to try to develop some additional thoughts on this topic. I hope it will be helpful. Thanks again everyone, Scott

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Dave Williams

November 13, 2012  4:44pm

Someone finally gets it! In the 60's-70's there was much demand for fresh styles of computer programming, not the "fixed" discipline of the stereotypical programmer. The greatest success came from combining the "fixed" genre of music with the "entrepreneurial" nature of jazz..out of this came the wildly successfull world of software. Maybe most seminaries could learn this lesson!! Also, explains why the "renewal" movements of that same error exploded an experiential Gospel. BTW: I was one of those "jazz" trombone players!

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Ray Tipton

November 13, 2012  1:54pm

I have been trying some "hints of jazz" in my prelude, offetory, and postludes with a Missouri Synod Luther Church. I too love jazz and it is strange to their ears - anything other than chorale style is foreign. But I remind them that Martin Luther used tunes that were not churchy for his songs because they recognized them. Maybe Jazz will catch on. :)

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