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Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz
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Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  158 ratings  ·  23 reviews
What Duke Ellington and Miles Davis teach us about leadership

How do you cope when faced with complexity and constant change at work? Here’s what the world’s best leaders and teams do: they improvise. They invent novel responses and take calculated risks without a scripted plan or a safety net that guarantees specific outcomes. They negotiate with each other as they proceed
Kindle Edition, 228 pages
Published July 24th 2012 by Harvard Business Review Press
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Derrick Trimble
Apr 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
I will muse on 'Yes to the Mess' for quite some time. The theme of improvisational leadership in context of a team orientation as demonstrated by timeless jazz innovators is riveting. The frequent anecdotes of Ellington, Davis, and others coaxing their peers and protégés to stretch under live conditions are memorable examples of leadership brilliance.

Barrett introduces a number of new phrases and gives old ones new life. New phrases like 'provocative competence' open uncharted avenues for explo
Sergio Caredda
Un libro splendidamente scritto, e che nasce da un lungo parallelo tra Jazz, Management e Leadership. Scritto anticipando molti dei concetti resi oggi celebri dalle modalità di lavoro Agile, il testo si focalizza molto sul concetto di improvvisazione, e sulla preparazione necessaria a improvvisare. I veri leader che fanno la differenza non sono i direttori d'orchestra classica, ma i jazzisti che riescono a trovare il groove insieme, elaborando una jam session dopo l'altra.
Libro pieno di riferime
Sergej van Middendorp
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Last Summer, Harvard Business Review Press published Frank Barrett's Yes to the Mess(1). I have been working with Frank's ideas from organizational improvisation for the past seven years in our jazzinbusiness workshops and I am lucky and happy to have him as one of the mentor's on my doctoral dissertation committee. This review provides a guidepost to the book and provides a synthesis and a challenge to Frank going forward.

Frank's book builds on the seven principles he originally described in hi
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So this is my assessment of this book Yes to the Mess by Frank Barrett according to my 6 criteria:
1. Related to practice - 5 stars
2. It prevails important - 4 stars
3. I agree with the read - 5 stars
4. not difficult to read (as for non English native) - 4 stars
5. too long and boring story or every sentence is interesting - 4 stars
6. Learning opportunity - 5 stars

Total 4.5 stars.
Sergio Caredda
Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz is a powerful book that drives its lessons from the continuous parallel between Jazz music, and specifically from how Jazz Bands operate, and the world of Management and Leadership. After attending the Herbie Hancock concert in Milan, I wrote a post on the relationship between Jazz and Leadership. I did some research on the web, and that’s how I found this book. Written by Frank J. Barrett, a professor of Management at the Naval Postgradua ...more
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
This is a pleasant, encouraging, and very well-written book. One can look forward to picking it up, and even with tired eyes and mind, one can still get something positive out of each sitting.

The use of the words "leadership" and "organizations" in the book's blurb were general enough that I had hoped that various kinds of organizations would be covered. "Organizations" in this book turned out to mean "companies", which disappointed me as I am not involved with or interested in companies. NGOs,
Stephen Chin
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Yes to the mess is a book that strives to frame leadership in a more fluid way, one based around learning, supporting, and experimenting. Through the lens of the Jazz Combo, Frank J. Barrett explains how we can learn to use group learning and group autonomy to guide more creative and inventive endeavors.

I enjoyed my time with this book. Reflecting Frank J. Barrett's focus on group learning and jazz bands, many of the points are illustrated primarily through examples and stories involving compani
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school, owned
So I read this book chapter by chapter through an honors course I took this semester on a whim, and each week we would all share our experiences with the book and how it related to our lives. I think that in a way, we were really exemplifying a lot of what the book talks about, we were all college freshmen, most of us with little experience with jazz or musical performance in general, from a wide variety of different majors and environments. All we had in common was the fact that we were in the ...more
Roberto Machado
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting reflexion on how jazz bands can teach today’s business thrive on a world of uncertainty. Focusing on people and their capability to work together and quickly adapt is typical of a jazz band jamming all night. Contemporary companies in fast moving markets need that type of adaptability and that’s what this book eloquently shows. How we can get ideas from jazz.
May 13, 2019 rated it liked it
I read this book as a requirement for a class I was taking. It wasn't something that I would read normally but I thought it was interesting. It was a very example heavy book but flowed well. I think most of what I gained from the book was from the discussion around it and not from the book itself.
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
As an amateur jazz player and professional knowledge worker, this was fantastic
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Hmmm. Interesting. But to be honest, also a bit far-fetched. Some elements will be interesting to implement into daily business life though. And I learned of some nice new Jazz artists!
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The adage "music can soothe the savage beast" is one we've all
universally accepted. The idea that Jazz can contribute, influence, and
change the field of organizational leadership is a new concept that we
need to universally accept. Frank Barrett's "Yes to the Mess" offers a
compelling metaphor of Jazz as a means of working not to get it better,
but to get it different. The theories and practices of Jazz as a musical
framework and discipline are clearly incorporated into Barrett's
analysis and recomme
Vince Lammas
Oct 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: systems, leadership
I happen to read a lot of books each year (as people who know me will tell anyone). Most of them are about how people work within, across and between organisations.

This book was by far the best I read in 2012 and I was relieved to find out it was published only a few months before I obtained it this year. I would hate to think I hadn't found it for a few years. I found the comparison of the skills demonstrated by jazz musicians and those needed for effective leadership to be compelling.

There hav
Cara Spaccarelli
May 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: sabbatical-books
p.124 ". . . improvisation cannot succeed . . . unless the players are extraordinarily adept at both leadership and followership. Indeed, the simple practice of taking turns leading and supporting might be the single practice most responsible for relational breakthroughs."

p.26 "the jazz improviser attends closely to what is happening, seeing the potential for embellishing on motifs, linking familiar with new utterances, and adjusting to unanticipated musical cues that reframe previous material.
Sep 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful treatise, compact and stays on point. Partly a valentine to jazz music and the complex interplay of its musicians and partly a reflection on the nature of teamwork in modern times, I thought it was refreshing and full of hope.

Barrett teaches a lot about some of the great jazz masters and how the ensembles worked together. Especially fascinating is the chapter on the epic Kind of Blue.

Great teamwork has a lot in common with jazz. The only question, is can one individual play jazz in
Jul 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the finest books I've read about organizational leadership. Barrett highlights adaptive leadership styles though the analogies of jazz improv. However, Barrett uses real examples of organizational improv at its best, such as the 9/11 post- disaster planning. This is not a book about project planning; rather, it's a book that highlights leadership strategies to creatively add value in a highly complex world.
Mauro Kleber
Dec 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excelente leitura, muito agradável e introduzindo conceitos importantes para os dias de hoje, como novos tipos de liderança, trabalho em equipe, relações humanas e muito mais. E o que é melhor embalado ao som de jazz. Entre uma pitada e outra, um caso e outro do mundo do jazz, os conceitos descem muito mais suaves. Recomendo.
Neena Verma
Sep 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Prof Barrett offers a curious perspective about Jazz being a metaphor for leadership. An interesting read.
Jun 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book that has great ideas I think I can apply and it was entertaining.
Pat Gibson
May 09, 2016 rated it liked it
This book takes a very interesting point of view on leadership. Worth considering if you are teaching about leadership.
Nov 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty academic book but fascinating counter-take on most of the other business books that proclaim the value of well-thought-out business plans.
Ali Baum
The jazz to life parallels are really interesting but an entire novel of the same metaphor ever-so-slightly tweaked gets repetitive and a bit tired after a few chapters
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