More Creative Employment

by Edward Henkler on April 22, 2014

At a recent TEDx workshop in Philadelphia, design thinker Natalie Nixon of Philadelphia University suggested that the future of work will look like jazz.  It’s making me wonder if I should switch “creative employment” to “improvisational employment”.  I’ve been involved in many forms of vocal and instrumental music throughout my life.  I started with classical music and then began to develop a more diverse repertoire.  As a teenager, I spent months playing along with records, learning first to copy whatever the performer played, then subsequently, how to improv off the theme.  It was painful at first, especially for my parents.  Eventually, the skills I perfected enabled to me to play in jazz and rock bands.  I was doing something I loved and getting to travel all over in my free time.

Back to creative (or should it be improvisational) employment….  Quoting directly from the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Nixon, in perhaps the day’s most astonishing talk, applied the principles of jazz to redesigning a corporation. You can create “minimal structures” that people with various skills and viewpoints can flesh out. You can stress “hanging out,” listen to the watercooler and hallway chat. Improvisational relations can let some players “solo” and others “support” them, and then reverse roles.  “The future of work,” she declared, “will look like jazz.”

This concept immediately resonated with me and I think is the perfect way to implement creative employment.  Each of us possesses unique skills and experiences.  If we can identify our uniqueness, we can package ourselves for a variety of employment settings, creating a portfolio of opportunities.  In some cases, we’ll be the soloist while at other times someone else will shine and we will provide the background riff.  Handled correctly, we’ll be doing things we love and getting paid.

Important warning: Once you piece together a full portfolio of work, you will become much more appealing to a potential full time employer.  You just may not want to give up the improv!

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