How to Collaborate – Lessons From Jazz – Lesson #4 : Never Say No

This is the fourth in a series of new posts that explain how you can apply the lessons of jazz to collaborate successfully.

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Never Say No

“It’s impossible for me to feel like there’s only one way to do a thing. There’s nothing wrong with having one way of doing it, but I think it’s a bad habit. I believe in range.”

– Wes Montgomery

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The legendary Wes Montgomery

Remarkably, in jazz, there is no mechanism for rejecting or criticizing musical statements made by other members of the band.

In jazz there is no way to say no.

All you can do is make the best of what has been offered, even if it was poorly conceived or confused.

Similarly, another improvisational idiom – improv theatre – employs a concept called ‘blocking’, which means to reject a dramatic suggestion made by someone you are improvising with. The very first thing students of improv theatre are taught is not to block.

Blocking kills collaborations of all kinds.

When someone contributes an idea to a collaboration then the worst thing that can happen is for that contribution to be immediately rejected by one or more members of the group. All contributions should be welcomed and considered valid contributions to the whole.

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React constructively to any suggestion by trying to understand it, trying to build on it, trying to incorporate it. This doesn’t mean every suggestion has to be uncritically adopted, but every suggestion has to be considered and engaged with openly, and not immediately be shot down.

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One thought on “How to Collaborate – Lessons From Jazz – Lesson #4 : Never Say No

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  1. Excellent example on how to behave, also in a business environment. Accept ideas openly and do not judge them immediately. Unfortunately, I have very few Jazz fans in my team, i.e. not sure if they will get it. But I love it.

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