Organizing Intuition and Playful Practice: The Jazz Band Metaphor Revisited

This research essay is authored by Hannes Henzinger, student in the master program Organization Studies at Universität Innsbruck.

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift
and the rational mind is a faithful servant.
We have created a society that honors the servant
and has forgotten the gift.” (Albert Einstein)

Preservation Hall Jazz band (Foto:  Infrogmation, CC-BY-SA 3.0)
Preservation Hall Jazz band (Foto: Infrogmation, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

A common narrative in today’s organization and management literature is that this world, especially the world of business, has become increasingly complex and unpredictable. Not just the scope, also the velocity of change has increased. Such a dramatic shift in the image of the environment seems to ask for an abandonment of old organizational practices. Not just bureaucracy seems outdated. Even stable strategies, routines, and planning are running the risk of falling short of what is needed to react timely and adaptively in this new environment. This narrative calls for a reconstruction of the practice of organizing, “new models and metaphors are needed for organizing” (Barrett, 1998, p. 605). The metaphor of a jazz band, introduced by Karl Weick, is a particularly catchy one. With an allusion to peak performance, like a “flow” experience (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990), it elegantly charms the reader into seeing jazz aspects in organizing and decision making. Beyond the lessons that are elaborated on in the article by Barrett (1998) the metaphor offers two further potentially valuable aspects, that, although foundational to the metaphor, often go unnoticed: the role of intuition in organizing and decision making and playful practice. Continue reading “Organizing Intuition and Playful Practice: The Jazz Band Metaphor Revisited”