Reflecting on Jazz and the Jazz Workshop

Last fall I attended an evening concert/lecture with Jazz Impact at the Banff Centre. I reflected then on the connections between jazz music and the 123 VC: Jazzing Up Your Curriculum with Videoconferencing. Today, as part of my Leadership PhD program, I’m attending an all day workshop with Jazz Impact. The lessons are still striking and applicable to the Jazz Workshop. So I write again, this time challenging those facilitating Jazz next week to reflect with me!

Jazz Lead Facilitators Meeting
Jazz Lead Facilitators Meeting

There are five themes that make jazz music work:

  • Autonomy
  • Passion
  • Risk
  • Innovation
  • Listening

So here are some questions for you to think about your own participation and contribution to the “music” of the “Jazz workshop”. If you aren’t facilitating Jazz next week or participating, use these questions to think about a group of people you collaborate and work with.


  • Where do you have autonomy within the Jazz workshop?
  • How is your autonomy moderated/tempered by the relationship and dependence on the group?


  • How do you feel a sense of purpose in your work in the Jazz workshop?
  • Do you feel a sense of emotional commitment to the success of the workshop? (It’s the emotional commitment of the individual that sustains the strength and integrity of the organization as a whole.) So how are you emotionally committed to Jazz? How did you get emotionally committed to Jazz? What inspired it?
  • Do you feel that your potential and your voice is heard in the planning and implementing of the Jazz workshop?


  • Where is the uncertainty in the Jazz workshop?
  • How are the guidelines of our score simplified so that everyone can improvise from it? In Jazz, the score is simplified so that improvisation can occur around it.  (Compare a classical score to a jazz score: the key, 8 notes, the time. That’s it!) Have we simplified the score enough to allow for appropriate improvisation based on the needs of the participants?
  • Think “local activities”. Are they simple enough to allow for improvisation yet enough structure for the new facilitators? The construct of a jazz tune is: the tune, zone of improvisation, the tune at the end.
  • Do we have enough uncertainty? Does our “organization culture” allow for “competent mistakes?”


  • Innovation is a relationship, a social function. How are you contributing to the innovation? How is the relationship with other Jazz facilitators inspiring your own innovation?
  • There’s a cycle of new musical ideas to structural foundation, to create new musical ideas to expanding the structural foundation, to expanding the musical ideas – i.e. a cycle of VC ideas, to a structural foundation – the basic structure of the Jazz workshop, to getting new VC and Web 2.0 ideas, to expanding the foundation, to getting even more ideas. Where are you in the cycle? Are you improving and expanding the ideas? Or are you improving and expanding the structure? or both?

Vicki Listening
Vicki Listening


  • Listening is a verb that generates cooperation. How are you listening to your lead facilitator? How are you listening to the other facilitators? How are you listening to the participants in the workshop?
  • Do you listen defensively, and only hear what you already know? Or are you able to listen with empathy to hear the new ideas from others?

Life is an echo – what you send out comes back. –Unknown

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