Get the Groove in your Design work, Part 2

This is the second part of my explorations of how we can be more musical as designers and design process leaders.

Enjoy a jam Session

A jam is a collective improvisation. In a jam session, there is no goal, no agenda, no other intention than just playing together. It is all about spontaneous interaction and immediate response to what the others are playing. The music can take new and unexpected directions, and everyone inolved just follow. When it works, the jam is moving forward and all members excel, with the help of each other. It gives tremendous satisfaction.

At a workshop or in a working session, there is often an agenda, or at least an overall goal. Still, there are moments that remind of good jam sessions.

Think of the best conversations: Everyone contributes, everyone builds on what others are saying, the conversation takes surprising turns and everyone have a high sense of meaning.

You can get the same sensation when you collectively solve a complex problem or when you create things together.

Also, in a good jam session, you are free to try ideas, as long as they don’t destroy the overall feeling. In a jam session, you can truly live by the words by Miles Davis: “Do not fear mistakes. There are none. “

To get a jam session to happen, you need an interesting question, and an open climate, where the participants are psychologically safe enough to take chances.

PrincePrince was known for requiring his musicians to join his 24 hours jam sessions. In a good jam session, you forget about the time. In music and in good co-operation. Photo: Scott Penner. Wikipedia Commons.

Embrace good solo Performances

A solo performance can add extra beauty to the music. It can inspire and push the whole ensemble forward. On the other hand, a solist can be overly full of the idea of playing the solo, loose the musical ear and get in the way of the rest of the ensemble and the overall performance.

Same can be applied if we look into a design team or a workshop.

We need people with clear voices. People with strong ideas, who speak up for their ideas or dare to give constructive feedback. We need experts who can enlighten the rest of the team or workshop group. False consensus, where nobody has the guts to play a solo, can ruin the creativity and limit the energy in a team. A good solo performance makes everyone else play better.

But be aware of solists with no other ambitions than to shine themselves. Heard of Yngwie Malmsteen?

YngwieThe monster guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen rarely gives space for others than himself and his playing. Photo: Alterna2. Wikipedia Commons.

Tune In

At a rehearsal or in a (bad) jam, the musicians sometimes just start, as a bunch of individuals. After some time they realize their instruments are not tuned together. Or they have the wrong balance — the guitars are too loud while they don’t hear the keyboards. Or they have not agreed to the attitude — the vocalist wants it gentle while the drummer goes for some aggressive chops. In a band, you need to tune in before you start: Tune your instruments, balance the levels and agree on how to approach the song.

In a joint design effort you also need to tune in together. Don’t just run off with your individual ideas and individual tasks. Make sure to be present, together, before you start. Do whatever it takes to connect as a team, every time you start working together. Not just in the beginning of the project. Some days, each of you can simply say a few words about your day. Some days you may need to re-visit the problem you are about to solve, to keep everyone on the same track. Be sensitive about what you need to tune in.


Related Posts

Part 1: Get the soul, Train your musical ear, Get the groove

Part 3: Dynamics, Hook, Orchestration, Tension, Gig, Dress rehearsal (coming soon)

Part 4: No matter the guitar gear, it’s all in your fingers, Putting a band together (coming soon)

Read more