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Six Lessons for Business Owners from Improvisational Jazz Music

by | Dec 13, 2018 | Events, Intellectual Property

The International Trademark Association Leadership Meeting was held in New Orleans this year. One of the programs offered was a group of jazz musicians who demonstrated how the elements of jazz improvisation apply to leading a business.

The musicians played bass, keyboards, drums, and trumpet. They provided wonderful entertainment and the following business lessons.

Strong Leadership

Whether in a jazz band or a successful business, members need to respect the leadership, and leadership needs to value the contributions of each member.

Strong leadership needs to instill and preserve a shared vision and culture. Leading a business team through branding exercises can introduce a shared vision for all members and establish the type of culture the business determines will help them thrive in the marketplace.


If the leader of a jazz band does not communicate with its members on an overall vision for the group, scheduling of performances, the music to be played, and the key in which the music will be played, the group will fall apart.

The same is true for a business. If the leadership does not communicate a vision, a program to follow, and a tone for an overall culture, the business will not thrive or survive.


Listening to other members of the jazz band can make the difference between a fantastic performance and a disjointed performance.

The same is true for business teams. The leadership needs to listen to its members, including employees. And everyone on the team needs to listen to the leadership.

If everyone plays their own tune without listening to others, the business will not perform successfully.

Teamwork and the Ability to Improvise

In a jazz band, all members need to respect one another, listen to what other members play, and improvise as the musical piece develops.

Businesses need the same ability to handle change in the marketplace. As consumers’ tastes and clients’ needs change, businesses must adapt. The whole team should work together to recognize the changes and learn how to improvise, so their business continues to thrive.

Overcoming Obstacles

The jazz musicians in New Orleans have learned this lesson through a wide variety of obstacles – both on- and offstage – such as hurricanes, poor economy, health issues, and family problems, to name a few.

This is true of businesses also. Business owners need to recognize obstacles as they arise and improvise to solve both business and personal problems. 

Knowing When to Step Aside and Let Others Shine

Each member of the jazz band knows when to step back and let a fellow musician show off her talent to the audience.

Members of a successful business know how to recognize talented employees and encourage them to shine for the overall good of the business.


For many years, I studied music and performed in many different types of musical groups. Now I practice law and help individuals build successful businesses.

I apply all of the lessons I learned while studying music and performing on stage to my law practice. Obstacles and change are inevitable, and we need to learn how to improvise as we go through life.


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