Jazz, Leadership, and Continuing Education

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Recently, the Harvard Business Review sent an email promoting a book called Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz” by Frank J. Barrett. The title alone grabbed my attention, and then I remembered a few Jazz musicians I knew, who talked about improvisation and experimentation as key elements of creating music. Not only is it a creative and complicated genre, more than anything it is a brave one. For the most part, Jazz musicians have to be willing to try something new, something that may in fact be outside of their comfort zone. Yet, it is this experimentation that can actually lead to their greatness.

 

Within the email, HBR explains, “Barrett introduces a new model for leading and collaborating in organizations. He describes how, like skilled jazz players, leaders need to master the art of unlearning, perform and experiment simultaneously, and take turns soloing and supporting each other. And with examples that range from manufacturing to the military to high-tech, he illustrates how organizations must take an inventive approach to crisis management, economic volatility, and all the rapidly evolving realities of our globally connected world. Leaders today need to be expert improvisers.”

 

This idea of leaders needing to be expert improvisers rings true, especially when it comes to the business of online continuing education. We have seen firsthand the importance of adjusting strategy to the evolving needs of adult learners and professionals in rapidly changing environments, like the legal, finance, medical, and engineering industries. We have also witnessed the power of associations in the same industry, coming together to collaborate and enhance educational experiences for their members. On the flip side, we have also seen how programs with an unwillingness or inability to step away from the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality has, to their own detriment, experienced a loss of audience and overall impact in their industry.

 

With that in mind, leaders in our industry are not be afraid to step outside of the box and keep a finger on the pulse, through unlearning, relearning and experimenting. They know that few, if any, decisions or directions are sealed in cement—and that the world and education are continually changing tunes. A nimble organization can adjust as needed, and improvise along the way, just like the greats of Jazz. And, maybe, even make some beautiful music in the form of ongoing education for the audience they serve. Resulting in a fun, interactive and satisfactory experience for everyone involved!

 

If you are wondering how you can apply this to your CE program or need help with ideas to improve your learners’ experience, we’re here to help. Our updated Professional Services provide a variety of ways for you to harmonize your CE program with learners and staff alike.

About the Author:

Donita Bourns Douglas is Executive Vice President of Client Success. She has held the position as director of educational programs for the Oklahoma Bar Association, where she developed one of the most successful CLE programs in the United States. Donita has also served as an instructor at the Oklahoma City University School of Law, is an emeritus member of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Inn of Court, and is past president of the Association of Continuing Legal Education (ACLEA). She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Southern Methodist University and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Oklahoma College Of Law.

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