Driving out to a place called the Inglewood Lounge at 11 p.m. on a Sunday made me feel a bit uncomfortable.
Maybe it was the term “lounge” that threw me off or maybe it was just that the thought of going to a bar on Sunday night in my old age seemed kind of creepy. Something about it just felt weird.
As we pulled into the parking lot, my son turned to me with a big smile and said, “Dad, you’re going to love this.” I just stared at him skeptically as we exited the car and made our way to the front door.
It only took me a minute to realize he was right.
Welcome to the Inglewood Lounge Sunday night jazz-funk jam session.
For those not in the know, a “jam session” is something most musicians love to be a part of. With no setlist or scripted ideas, it’s an informal gathering where a group of instrumentalists and vocalists just start playing and see what happens.
Jam sessions have no strict rules, just general guidelines around taking turns and being respectful of your fellow jammers.
Although it may sound like a recipe for musical chaos, when good musicians improvise together and start to jam, it’s a thing of beauty. With raw emotions and ideas that are unencumbered by too much thought, the level of creativity rises. Jam sessions are known to produce some of the best musical moments you will ever experience.
As my head bobbed to the groove, I marveled at how something so unplanned could be so perfect.
In my day job working at a tech consulting firm, we spend a lot of time planning. We have business plans, marketing plans, strategic plans, disaster recovery plans— you name it—we try to leave as little as possible to chance.
Our company, like most, does all this formal planning for good reasons.
Leaving too much to chance is by definition risky. Whether it’s everyone playing in different keys and different tempos, or the sales team going in a different direction than the marketing team, a lack of planning increases the risk that everything will fall apart.
But as I listened to this great group of players jam away, I was reminded that as beneficial it is to have an organized approach to any endeavor, it can come at a cost. It can quash creativity. And creativity, whether it’s in a lounge or a conference room, is a key ingredient to success.
For businesses, jam sessions come in the form of brainstorming, sharing ideas, and thinking outside the box to help a company improve. And although it may not sound as cool as the jam sessions at the Inglewood Lounge, jamming with your colleagues to solve a business problem can be just as fun.
Many large organizations have caught on and are implementing jam sessions to solve business problems. IBM has used jam sessions to come up with new products. Nestle has hosted jam sessions to fix supply chain issues.
So, how can a smaller business leverage jam sessions to solve their business challenges?
It starts with culture. Establishing a culture that encourages employees to share ideas without fear is a must.
From there, just like the Inglewood Lounge has provided a platform for musicians to jam, a company can provide a platform for their employees to jam. Web-based “Idea Management Platforms” that include everything from discussion boards to idea scoring systems are now available for any sized business to use.
Another benefit to jam sessions: They’re just really fun. As I drove home at 1 a.m. after a night of great music I felt energized and inspired. Whether you are a drummer, guitarist, piano player, or a CEO, finding time to “jam” is important, even if it keeps you up late. As Warren Zevon said, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
JJ Rosen is the founder of Atiba, a Nashville software development and IT support firm. Visit www.atiba.com for more info.