Jazz Band or Symphony Orchestra?

Would you compare an industry technology analyst firm to a symphony orchestra or jazz band?

A Certain Skill Set

Let’s focus this a bit more: you have been asked to join an industry (pick the vertical domain of your choice) technology analyst firm. Would you expect this analyst firm to generate IP (intellectual capital) and be more successful competing if it resembled a symphony orchestra or a jazz band?

Both have talented musicians; both have a leader of some flavor; both mandate that the musicians constantly practice to maintain their skills. Musicians of either entity must be respected as experts with their instruments. Switching to the analyst world, the onus is on both the analysts and the analyst firm to ensure that the analysts receive the training they need or attend relevant conferences to maintain and build their level of expertise.

Both types of musical entities follow a musical score although in different ways. Symphony musicians have the score in front of them and a conductor they follow for guidance of pace and intensity. Jazz musicians rarely, if ever, have a musical score in front of them. They all “know” the music and are guided lightly by a leader who directs the  individual members as to the order of their solos, duets or other combinations within the larger group.

Similarly to the symphony orchestra, jazz musicians select the songs they will be playing for their audience during their rehearsals.  And in the analyst world, analysts know the key themes or issues they will be generating their IP about before their fiscal year begins.

All That Jazz

Two areas where jazz musicians differ from their symphonic counterparts are freedom to experiment and having the ability to blend their sounds together in unanticipated ways in real-time. Jazz musicians are expected to experiment with variations around themes they express with their instruments. They are also expected to blend their sounds together in real-time and usually (in what seems to be to the audience) unexpected ways with other members of the ensemble. (Yes, there are musicians who play their own cadenzas as soloists with symphony orchestras but I would submit they do not have anywhere near the degree of freedom jazz musicians do.)

Another area where jazz musicians differ from their symphonic counterparts is that jazz musicians, sensing their audience, can and do take liberties with new selections not identified during their rehearsals. They can do this because they have a broad library of music and musical explorations in their knowledge set and, as importantly, they know how to blend their sounds together to get the best outcome possible for their audience.

Improv

Similarly, analysts must be able to generate IP about new events or issues that have either reached the radar screen of their clients or that are soon-to-emerge on their client’s radar screens. And they must be able to do this even if these issues were not identified for their formal research agenda. Of course, they do have to let the ‘leader’ know so that person can potentially identify other IP streams that might help the new content or that could be helped by the new content.

Because of the differences mentioned above, an analyst firm is more like – or should be more like – a jazz band. Whether I worked for an analyst firm or was a client of an analyst firm, I would want them to be able to experiment around key themes, to blend their skills together and to find new issues that would be impacting me that I didn’t have time to discover myself.

Analysts, like jazz musicians, need an environment that supports their ability to experiment with different perspectives of existing concepts; motivates them to blend their IP or analytic skills together, and permits them to explore new concepts all  in a way that produces a very rich, pleasing, and quite possibly, unanticipated outcome for their clients.

Swing, baby, swing!!