One of my great loves is jazz. While growing up, I was a serious classical piano student, but when I heard the jazz greats at the age of 12, the world opened up. How, I wondered, did Bill Evans or Thelonius Monk create those amazing sounds?
My lifelong interest in jazz led me to think about the connection between improvisation in jazz and the innovation process itself. It was an itch I could not help but scratch. The result was a book, published in 1996 called Jamming. Published by Harper Collins, it was a best seller and remains in print to this day. It was also printed in some 16 foreign languages. I still get emails to this day about Jamming.
One of my greatest pleasures is to see how the notion of Jamming has propagated. One day in 1998, I got a phone call out of the blue from Ray Ozzie, now at Microsoft to tell me he had created a new software product called “groove” that was inspired by Jamming. IBM subsequently launched a series of global jam sessions; in fact one executive there actually confronted me over my “appropriation” of their idea, only to be told that in fact I was the source.
One of my other greatest pleasures is doing jazz demonstrations in the context of keynote speeches, during which I use the piano to illustrate some of the deep principles of how jazz is created. I’ve attached clips from some of those speeches along with an excerpt from Jamming.