The Story

From Lisa Kimball, founder of Group Jazz

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I'd love to share some of what I'm passionate about that inspired the formation of Group Jazz.

The bottom line is that I believe that great groups make great things happen.

When I think about the times when I have felt most creative, most alive, most energized I think about times when I've connected with other people. A lot of times it's when I've been in a group that is in the zone. That zone is sometimes called high performance, excellence, or high productivity. I bet everyone can think of experiences you've had with groups like this.

I've always been fascinated by the dynamics of these great groups. What is it about the relationships, the context, the environment, the task, the leadership, the facilitation, and all the other factors that makes the difference? What if we could live and work like this more of the time? What can we do as a member of any group we're in to turn up the dial on the energy, passion, and fun? What do people with sponsorship, leadership, and other key roles need to do to create the conditions for these groups to grow and thrive?

I've been doing research and interviewing (the basis of a book I'm writing) some of the great groups I think of as exemplars of being highly creative and succeeding in a level of collaboration that makes the group really a lot more than the sum of its parts. Groups I've looked at include groups with a wide variety of purposes - Cirque du Soleil, the U.S. Women's Olympic softball team, Emily's List (a political group in the US), Sting's world music ensemble, and others. I'm looking for themes and principles that we could apply to any group - work team, community, learning cohort, organization - to make it better. For me, "better" is both about outcomes (productivity, quality, performance) and about the member's experience (learning, inspiration, satisfying relationships, growth).

I've always loved JAZZ as a metaphor for collaboration. To me, it represents a system that is purposeful and structured yet provides a lot of degrees of freedom for individual creativity and room for surprise as it's never the same twice. The relationship of members of a jazz ensemble is interesting to me because, on the one hand, it is very much a group of peers ... yet, on the other hand, individuals have responsibility at different times for taking leadership, allowing their own talent and creativity to come forward, and determining the direction and flow of the performance.

I think that creating the conditions for great group experience and performance is more and more challenging as the members of groups are distributed across boundaries of time, organization, culture, and other differences. So that's the field in which we want to make a difference. Group Jazz works as a production company to support the work of purposeful groups - teams, communities, task forces, organizations - whether they meet face-to-face or online or both. We're bringing together the best tools, technologies, media, consultants, cast members and practitioners to create great group experiences that support action. We do this by designing and implementing f-t-f and virtual (and combo) strategies for events and ongoing work environments. We also provide training and coaching for people in a wide range of key roles vis-a-vis teams. We're able to leverage a unique combination of interests and skills which spans the face-to-face and virtual worlds.

If our organizations are going to grow and thrive, it will require high levels of engagement and energy from the people in them. And if we're all going to have more fulfilling lives, I believe that the quality of our relationships and experiences at work need to be more meaningful and delightful and ...well ... more FUN! I hope Group Jazz will be able to make a contribution to that goal (and we intend to have a lot of fun doing it!   <g>)


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