Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hillary and All That Jazz

The Democrats’ front runner is taking loosening up lessons and, with all due respect, it’s about time.

Sen. Clinton is getting unpaid advice from John Kao, described as a San Francisco corporate consultant but who is, in fact, more of a personal trainer in creativity who uses jazz improvisation as a model for thinking beyond the box.

Spontaneity has not been one of Hillary Clinton’s hallmarks, and it is encouraging to see her trying to change not only public perception of her as a calculating wonk but perhaps the reality of it.

In Kao, she has found a fascinating adviser. His life and work have been the polar opposite of hers. Born to Chinese immigrants, he became a jazz pianist for Frank Zappa, earned an M.D. with a residency in psychiatry from Yale and then an M.B.A. to teach creativity at Harvard Business School.

Along the way, he helped produce the movie, “Sex, Lies and Videotape” and started companies to find ways of attacking cancer cells without harming healthy ones and to grow new skin for burn victims.

Kao’s metaphorical attempt to grow a new political skin for Hillary Clinton will involve what he describes as “the jamming concept” in jazz music.

“At one end,” he says, “you follow sheet music without deviation and the other end is total, random music, but somewhere in the middle is something beautiful, which is a resolution of the paradox.”

This may sound a bit like New Age blather, but Kao’s “Idea Factory” has expanded to Europe and Asia with satisfied corporate clients. If he can help Sen. Clinton find and express her random music, he will be doing the candidate and all of us a service.

1 comment:

Daniel Becker said...

As a musician, the key to jam'n is to be honest about what you think the music is and should be it is not about interpreting what someone else thinks it should be. That is writen down music.