Business and All That Jazz

in Faculty, Faculty in the News, News
April 2nd, 2014

If you fall asleep in Jack McCarthy’s class it won’t be for long – a saxophone riff or blaring trumpet will jolt you awake soon. No, having a jazz ensemble in class is not a professor’s revenge on dozing students. That ensemble is here to illustrate how improvisation, creativity, and shared leadership create high-performing teams on the stage or in the office.

For the past six years, McCarthy, SMG professor of organizational behavior, has been part of an interdisciplinary groundswell between the arts and business. Employers are looking for collaborative people who can improvise – core skills many actors and musicians have and businesses could use more of. Business schools are catching on and offering courses that incorporate the creative process from acting, drawing, or music into the standard lecture format, writes Rebecca Knight in a Financial Times article featuring Professor McCarthy’s class.

“In jazz, there are chords and notes but the performance requires improvisations: the musicians play off each other and play off the audience,” according to McCarthy’s Financial Times commentary. “That’s a metaphor for the work we do today in organizations. Yes, there are structures for how we get things done but to truly be creative and extend ourselves in business today, we need to build from and with others in the ways that jazz musicians do.”

Sharing his innovative course with the BU community at the 2012 Instructional Innovation Conference, Professor McCarthy advocated for variety and balance in classroom formats. “ When you have students engaged, and when you have creative examples from different domains,” he said, “you’re much more likely to tap into diverse learners and diverse learning styles.”

Read the full Financial Times article.

Read BU Today’s coverage of the 2012 Instructional Innovation Conference.