Coyotes, Jazz, and Creative Teams: Facing
and Seeking Variance
Business teams seeking
to bring creativity and innovation to their endeavors have something to learn from coyotes and jazz. To be successful, it
is argued that a creative business team should be part coyote pack and part jazz combo. A close look reveals some surprising
and important linkages and relevancy! The key lies in understanding and appreciating the relationship and roles between coyotes
and jazz musicians and their respective environments. In a word, coyotes have a remarkable ability to adjust to environmental
change for survival, whereas jazz musicians have a profound facility to intentionally invoke change in an otherwise unchanging
environment for purposes of creative expression. Stated in another way, the environment drives the coyote, which reacts
to the environmental variance it faces in order to survive and flourish, while the jazz musician drives the environment by
acting to produce and embrace environmental variance for artistic invention. A purposeful blend of the skills and sensibilities
embodied in the coyote and in jazz can lead to a highly creative, robust, and resilient business team.
In the case of the coyote, the environment is the natural one with its rich,
ecological systems. In jazz, the environment consists of a performance setting, an audience, a small combo, and the ecology
(i.e. structure, forms, and conventions) of the jazz idiom. The coyote and the jazz musician possess similar traits and both
are an integral part of their respective environments, but their roles are fundamentally different in relation to their environments.
The coyote is clever, flexible, often disruptive, able to both conform to and modify social dynamics, and possesses a bag
of tricks to flourish where other species die off. These traits essentially characterize the best jazz musicians, too. However,
unlike the coyote, the jazz musician is able to invent change within a social dynamic to purposely modify his or her environment.
Also, “survival” in the world of jazz is more metaphorical and speaks to a musician’s success in creative
expression. The common link between the jazz player and coyote is versatility and the ability to improvise, the earmarks of
Coyotes, in comparison to many other species of
mammal, “improvise” with greater ingenuity when facing a changing, or varying, environment that threatens survival.
For example, they hunt alone if there is plenty of small game and rodents, but team in pairs or larger groups to hunt larger
game, such as deer, if small game populations within their habitat diminish drastically. Coyotes also team symbiotically with
badgers to hunt and share prey, lending their keen senses of hearing and smell to the badger’s ability to burrow into
the dens of evasive underground prey. Their diets, among the most varied compared to others that share their habitat, include
both vegetation and prey, making them far less vulnerable to depletions of certain food items. Indeed, they are among the
most versatile, inventive animal species, and have even been observed to scale 14 foot vertical chain link fences much like
a spry primate if motivated to reach the other side. Not the least, the coyote is viewed as “magician,” “trickster,”
or “cultural hero” in the creation myths of various Native American cultures.
In contrast to coyotes, jazz combos improvise to create intentional change
for the sake of artistic performance within a fundamentally stable and structured environment. Thus, in playing a known musical
composition, a jazz combo will ad lib various melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic embellishments and novel combinations based
on the composition’s structure to add interest and surprise for an audience, and often for the combo players, themselves.
The jazz setting engenders a rich interplay between combo members in musical dialog, soloing, and mutual support. Also, a
new player, “sitting in,” can add rich elements of uncertainty, novelty, and creative tension to an established
jazz group, catalyzing exciting new responses and musical journeys.
A creative business team that is part coyote pack and part jazz combo is able to: a) flourish within
a changing external environment; b) be inventive and disruptive within the team’s internal environment to produce creative
outcomes; and c) catalyze change in the external environment for the benefit of all stakeholders. The external environment
consists of both the “world out there” and the commercial market with all its constituents and stakeholders. The
internal environment is the business infrastructure that a business team resides in that endeavors to serve a market.
The blend of coyote and jazz is an intriguing one, but how can we achieve
it? To begin, one needs to look at the “way of the coyote” and the “way of the jazz musician.”
It's an exciting journey!
© 2007 The Innovation Affinity Group, LLC