Organizational Improvisation—only available in English

Growing older inevitable affects your memory. When you're young, that's fine. It grows larger and larger, you have no problem filling it high speed, and retrieval is a no-brainer. When you grow older the main problem is not that it does not grow anymore, I think it still does. The main problem is that retrieval becomes unreliable.

Why this intro?

In the last presentation of the Agile Holland Conference, October 24, 2008, Gert Poppe ( illustrated organizational improvisation by comparing it to improvisation that jazz musicians engage in. After the presentation I asked him if he was aware that Henry Mintzberg wrote an interesting article on this subject. Gert didn't. Good for him because, as far as I know ;-) Mintzberg didn't. Karl Weick did (Bougon, M., Weick, K. E., & Binkhorst, D. (1977). Cognition in organizations: An analysis of the Utrecht Jazz Orchestra. Administration Science Quarterly, 22, (4), 606_639).

If you want to read more on the subject of organizational improvisation, I think a good starting point is Organizational Improvisation, a book edited by Ken N. Kamoche, Miguel Pina e Cunha, João Vieira da Cunha, published by Routledge, 2002, ISBN 0415261767, 9780415261760. And, convenient for a first acquaintance, also available in Google books. Other relevant publications found in the search process: Minimal structures: From jazz improvisation to product innovation, by Ken Kamoche (, webpage no longer available), Creativity and Improvisation in Jazz and Organizations: Implications for Organizational Learning, by Frank J. Barrett (, webpage no longer available) and an interview with Weick in Wired, titled Complicate Yourself - which completes the circle by mentioning the fact that Weick studied the Utrecht Jazz Orchestra (

Mintzberg, by the way, wrote an article in which music plays a central role: Covert Leadership: Notes on Managing Professionals, in the November 1998 issue of Harvard Business Review. Good reading for the management of professionals. one citation: "Professionals require little direction and supervision. What they do require is protection and support."

Love the web, it offers such a fine compensation for an unreliable memory.

seperator line