Thursday, May 17, 2007


I defend her and Bill against people who think they're a two-headed antichrist, but I can't help rolling my eyes at silly stuff like this:

Add another consultant to the list of those advising Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton: John Kao, a corporate communications consultant who is based in San Francisco and advocates using the techniques of musical improvisation to get the creative juices flowing and leave competitors in the dust.

...The two met in 2004 as part of a Defense Department advisory group to help the military think creatively about "transformation," leadership and other issues.

Mr. Kao, who has taught at Harvard Business School, is the author of "Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Corporate Creativity," in which he explains how members of a work team can adapt the principles of improvisational music to collaborate at a higher, more creative level, a process he calls "getting to cool."

In his "transformation manifesto," Mr. Kao suggests hiring a "chief destruction officer" instead of a "chief innovation officer." ...

First of all: "getting to cool"? I'm cringing. I don't care if you once personally tied off John Coltrane, if you teach at Harvard Business School, or you're a top executive at a corporation, you are not cool. You will never be cool.

This doesn't mean that you can't pick up something about letting go of rigidity from thinking about jazz improvisation. Too bad Hillary hasn't managed to do that -- for 70 grand, you'd think Kao might have succeeded in getting her to loosen up even the slightest bit.

(Unlike the right-wing crazies, I don't think Hillary's careful aversion to spontaneity is a sign of dishonesty, much less of pure evil. I just think she's unnecessarily cautious. But it's a thing she's criticized for a lot, and it really could hurt her in the general election -- presidential candidates who didn't seem as if they could loosen up include Dukakis, Gore, and Kerry -- and so if she's working with a big-bucks consultant whose expertise is allegedly precisely that, why not pump him for some ideas?)

Kao's Defense Department connection intrigues me. What was Rumsfeld paying this guy? And for what? To tell Pentagon careerists they need to loosen up and jam? This was happening under Rumsfeld, the micromanager's manager?

(Maybe they wanted new tunes to play at maximum volume to prisoners who were chained naked in air-conditioning and not allowed to sleep. Anyone know if our jailers have worked Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz into the mix?)

By the way, the Amazon reviews of Jamming are decidedly mixed:

The jazz metaphore flags, the cheerleader-like tones grow monotonous, the new-age recommendations are laughable, and the lack of research is deplorable....


I wasted my time & money on this book!


Also, it is unclear (at least to me) how anyone can proceed from various general ideas in Jamming to specific applications of them in the business world. For example, "Success depends on your ability to infuse, imbue, and instill a respect for and belief in the power of creativity throughout your organization." O.K. but how? "The first step in making your company a happening place [sic] is to kick out the crutches that support a creativity-deadening culture." O.K. but how? ... At one point, Kao quotes Jerry Welch, a former American Express executive: "The most important precondition for creativity is to believe in it." O.K. but then what?

The Clintons, alas, sometimes fall for gurus -- Bill has hung out with both Anthony Robbins and Stephen Covey, respectively the self-styled "world's number one success coach!" and the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I'd rather have people with gimmicky notions of how to make personal breakthroughs advising the president of the United States than apocalypse-craving Evangelicals ... but it's a close call.


(No disrespect meant above for John Coltrane or Ornette Coleman. To make up for that, I'll direct you to this.)

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