At the dawn of the twenty-first century, we are in the midst of a revolution that has been called variously the post-industrial society (Bell 1973), the third wave (Toffler 1980), the information revolution (Naisbitt 1983), and the post-capitalist society (Drucker 1993). We do not yet perceive the entire scope of the transformation occurring, but we know that it is global, that it is based on unprecedented access to information, and that since more people have access to information than ever before, that it is potentially a democratic revolution. Perhaps the management of knowledge development and knowledge creation is becoming the most important responsibility for managers as we enter the twenty-first century. Indeed, ideas generated by various streams and movements, including sociotechnical design, total quality management, reengineering, remind us that the fundamental shift we are experiencing involves empowering people at all levels to initiate innovative solutions in an effort to improve processes. Given the unprecedented scope of changes that organizations face and the need for members at all levels to be able to think, plan, innovate, and process information, new models and metaphors are needed for organizing. Drucker has suggested that the twenty-first century leader will be like an orchestra conductor. However, an orchestral metaphor-connoting pre-scripted musical scores, single conductor as leader-is limited, given the ambiguity and high turbulence that many managers experience. Weick (1992) has suggested the jazz band as a prototype organization. This paper follows Weick’s suggestion and explores the jazz band and jazz improvising as an example of an organization designed for maximizing learning and innovation. To help us understand the relationship between action and learning, we need a model of a group of diverse specialists living in a chaotic, turbulent environment; making fast, irreversible decisions; highly interdependent on one another to interpret equivocal information; dedicated to innovation and the creation of
novelty. Jazz players do what managers find themselves doing: fabricating and inventing novel responses without a prescripted plan and without certainty of outcomes; discovering the future that their action creates as it unfolds.