Great Dialogue is an Innovative Activity

Innovative Teamwork Requires Great Dialogue

What does it sound like? What does it look like? How does it feel? What are you thinking and saying to yourself and the others? What are they saying to you? What do you see? How do you play together?

Here are some examples extracted from interviews by Alec Wilkinson with the gifted jazz pianist, Jason Moran and others who have experienced and shared his creative insight, Jazz Hands, by Alec Wilkinson, The New Yorker, March 11, 2013, pages 30-36.

“I’m in this dialogic mood. I’m thinking, Why did you do that? That’s not what I would do. Oh, I see what you’re doing. I don’t agree, but that’s interesting, I understand. I’m hearing him (Moran) go places that I wouldn’t have imagined, that I don’t understand temporarily, or maybe I will never understand, and that’s good, because a musician should be able to exceed his limitations or our understanding. He’s not playing this music to reassure you.”

“What you played at the very end, that’s where you should start,” Moran said. It’s almost like you played all that prelude just to find that little bit.”

“Stop,” Moran said. Stop. It’s its own rhetoric now…it’s like an exercise. In the beginning, you didn’t know where things were going. I want us to maintain that uncertainty. I don’t want to see autopilot. Where I want you to start is, I don’t know. I want a whole lot of I don’t know.”

“You have to look for open windows, he said. Generally, when I’m playing with people, I run for one and jump through. Eventually, I have to see if I can get back in. If you get into the habit of it, you might find something you value outside. Also, be conscious of range, We don’t want just to stay in the middle…”

“A teacher at another school had told her (Moran’s student) that only the right hand matters when you are playing with other people.” ‘That’s racist,’ Moran said. …The left hand has the power to tell the right hand, ‘This is the world you’re going to play in.’ I want us to build that part of the left hand.”

“The way he embraced the rhythm was raw, and his solos were more like Jackson Pollock paintings – lots of colors and big splashes of sound and energy, but also brimming with patience and maturity.”

Bill Frisell, the guitarist in Moran’s band, The Bandwagon: “With other pianists, you have to be careful about staying within a certain role, but he (Moran) leaves so much space, and he’s so aware of what’s happening all around him. He’s really playing what’s happening in that space at that time.

I asked Frisell if he thought the band had a private language. “they do have a private  language” he said, “It’s so hooked up, it’s very unique, but there is nothing obvious about it. It’s so unfathomable.”

“Is it close knit? Open? Dark? Brooding?

“Well, he said, “it’s all of that. They all can go off on their own.”

These music conversations evoke the underlying coherence in true dialogue described by the quantum physicist David Bohm in his classic, “On Dialogue,” Routledge Classics, 2004, pages 6-7.

“Dialogue comes from the Greek word dialogos. Logos means “the word,” or in our case we would think of the “meaning of the word” And dia means “through” – it doesn’t mean “two.” A dialogue can be among any number of people, not just two. Even one person can have a sense of dialogue within himself if the spirit of the dialogue is present. The picture or image that this derivation suggests is of a stream of meaning flowing among and through us and between us. This will make possible a flow of meaning in the whole group, out of which may emerge some new understanding. It’s something new, which may not have been in the starting point at all.. It’s something creative. And this shared meaning is the “glue” or “cement” that holds people and societies together.”

The corporate tribe too. Dialogue and teamwork require disciplines that are taken for granted, disciplines generally not taught at home or in school. The unsustainability and high death rate of corporations in the West are proof of the need for some serious rewiring in how they function.  Your staff may have all the educational and professional qualifications, yet face high risk of failure without training in dialogue and teamwork disciplines.

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