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Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz Hardcover – August 7, 2012
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This is a fascinating read.” Smooth Jazz News
The book is breezy and fun, and offers vivid real-life stories from Barrett’s musical career and observations about some jazz greats, all juxtaposed with anecdotes from the business world.” Forbes
Jazz has always been a good metaphor for the art of leadership. In Yes to the Mess, Frank Barrett knocks it out of the park.” LeadershipNow
Jazz has always been an art form that blends structure with learning as you go. So it is no wonder that Yes to the Mess has a playful tone dare I say there’s a ton of fun in this business book? If you are problem solving for your organization or team and have an imaginative personality, you’ll feel like a cool cat from reading this book.” Small Business Trends (smallbiztrends.com)
a short but powerful book about how to be more focused at work, how to understand chaos as opportunity, and how to be better prepared to approach it.” 800 CEO READ
ADVANCE PRAISE for Yes to the Mess:
Karl E. Weick, Rensis Likert Distinguished University Professor, Ross School of Business; coauthor, Managing the Unexpected: Assuring High Performance in an Age of Complexity
Frank Barrett’s remarkable fusion of jazz improvisation and organizational innovation promises to reshape how we think about creative work. Innovations are improvised into existence and here, for the first time, is a backstage look at how that happens.”
Ellis Marsalis Jr., Professor Emeritus and Jazz Studies program founder, University of New Orleans
Barrett’s insightful book shows how business can learn from the risky business’ of jazz. Yes to the Mess is a great treatise on improvisation and on the courage to persist irrespective of a predictable outcome.”
Amy C. Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management, Harvard Business School; author, Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy
Jazz provides an illuminating metaphor for managing in the knowledge era. Frank Barrett writes beautifully about leadership, learning, and innovation and pulls together great stories from a range of industry settingsfrom jazz performance to automotive manufacturing. Yes to the Mess is a great read, which I recommend enthusiastically."
Edgar H. Schein, Professor Emeritus, MIT Sloan School of Management
Yes to the Mess provides a fascinating view into the world and mind-set of jazz musicians and will stimulate you to think differently about leadership and organization. Read this book.”
Douglas R. Conant, former President and CEO, Campbell Soup Company; coauthor, TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments
This book describes a powerful and necessary paradigm shift to advance the craft of leadership in the twenty-first century. Barrett gives every aspiring leader a new model for proactively dealing with the chaos and disruption that has come to characterize the world of work in our time.”
Roger H. Brown, President, Berklee College of Music; cofounder, Bright Horizons
Finally! A book that applies the tools of an improvising jazz musician to great leadership. The modern world can no longer afford the orchestral model of managementlots of people playing the same part and a leader who stands apart from it all. The new world is premised on intense communication, lightning-speed decision making, risk taking, and a degree of perfected competence that allows spontaneous and brilliant composingnamely jazz. Yes to the Mess gets it right.”
Richard Boyatzis, Distinguished University Professor, Case Western Reserve University; coauthor, Primal Leadership and Resonant Leadership
With the velvety tones of Wes Montgomery and the wail of Miles Davis, professional jazz musician and management scholar Frank Barrett plays a set to enchant us. Pour a glass of wine, sit back, and listen to this engaging story of how to help teams and organizations innovate instead of replicate.”
Ken Peplowski, award-winning jazz clarinetist and saxophonist
I’ve known Frank Barrett for over thirty years, and we’ve often discussed the strange confluence of learned experience and pure intuition that exists in jazz improvisation. Frank gives us an insight into that world and how its lessons can be applied to almost any walk of lifetruly fascinating!”
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Top Customer Reviews
Though couched in the familiar language of business books, Barrett lays out a fundamentally different paradigm for management and leadership. Miles Davis isn't just a new take on an old story, but the path to a radically different model. This isn't leadership from the front (like a general or a much-ballyhooed CEO) or servant leadership (popularized by Jim Collins and others). This is a new organizational role and behavior. Because this is a business book and because it is published by a conventional business house, it takes some reading between the lines. But it's well worth it.
Frank's book builds on the seven principles he originally described in his 1998 paper on creativity and improvisation in jazz and organization(2), but takes them to the realities of today's world and brings them even closer to a business practitioner audience than the very accessible scholarly article did.
In chapter one, 'All that Jazz' Frank introduces improvisation as an art for business and shows with numerous examples that in contrast to the neat and planned stories, most leadership is messy, in the moment, requires creativity, courage and on the spot decision making. Only when we look back do we see if things are actually working. In jazzinbusiness, we use Frank's principle of retrospective sensemaking to help our participants make sense of the core of improvisation and how it can be applied in the moment.
In chapter two: 'Yes to the Mess' Frank discusses what it takes to embrace the uncertainty and the imperfection that are core to improvisation. Contrary to the aesthetics of perfection that go with planning and performing a composition, leadership is a messy business. Embracing an aesthetic of imperfection and a willingness to act into the mess are conducive to the creation of options, possibilities, and surprises that inspire innovation, novelty and change.Read more ›
Great book. Interesting anecdotes, too.
The author's approach certainly works better when dealing with small groups of individuals who must create (and recreate) on a consistent basis, and is applicable to knowledge workers in particular. The parallels to jazz are clearly drawn. The only issue I have is whether the model is more universally applicable, extending to much larger groups and areas where creativity is not so important. As someone once remarked, "creativity is not necessarily a good thing when wiring three-phase."
Otherwise, a very good read, and one I would recommend to managers, especially those in the software development domain who embrace the agile philosophy. I've done my share of managing, and I'm an aspiring tenor saxophonist, so I can support the notion that the author knows what he is talking about.
Every manager, C suite exec and business school professor must read this. To put it in Nancy Adler's words, Frank's book is the antidote to the "dehydrated language" of managerial studies.
Thank you Frank. More Please!!!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is the cornerstone of a course I created for the Honors College at the University of Alabama: "Leadership Lessons Through Jazz". Read morePublished 2 months ago by R. Alley
This book helps inform us with tools to embrace the faster moving and more dynamic business world we live in. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Ian
This is a provocative book in many ways. Very helpful for leaders to consider new models of organizing and novel ways to think about leading. It's very creative. Read morePublished 5 months ago by jazzman
Really enjoyed Frank's take on the Jazz model for flexible agile leadership. I think that it describes our life building the Orion crew vehicle for NASA. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
I had a chance a few years back to attend one of Professor Barrett's presentations. It was fascinating and entertaining. I bought the book later a find it equally valuable. Read morePublished 5 months ago by pshay
As both a jazz musician and a VP of Engineering, I found Dr. Barrett's book to be the best explanation of my modus operandi as a manager, and a band leader. Dr. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
Addresses one of the signature capacities need for 21st Century leadership--structured improvisation-through the lens of jazz.Published 10 months ago by Hayim Herring
Fantastic book. Really innovative way of looking at bringing about organisational change.Published 12 months ago by Sarah Watkins
Great book describing a different approach to management in today's ever-changing world. The traditional top-down management systems cannot function properly in a rapidly changing... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Danielle Benge