Get in the Flow State: What Jazz Can Teach You About Collaboration

Get in the Flow State: What Jazz Can Teach You About Collaboration

One of the areas I’m really interested in
is getting groups of people to work together in a flow state. A common place where you
forget time. That it’s fun, interesting and highly productive. Now when I was in seventh
grade, I walked into the band room wanting to learn music. They handed me, because I
had braces, a tuba and said this is what you’re gonna play. Okay, great. And I started learning
how to play with others and started playing in jazz bands and wind ensembles. And so what
I started feeling is that I was an important part along with others in producing a song
that none of us by ourselves could play. And so this common goal of working together was
produced by a musical experience. And so that’s kind of how I look at that flow state. If
you — actually I’m on the Board of Brooklyn College of Music which is a great music school,
contemporary music, but it does a lot of jazz. So imagine you’re in a jazz band and the great
skills in the jazz band are to be one, a great player. Got it. But two, to have a managed
ego so that you put aside yourself and listen to the other great performers as well. And
then you will start innovating, you’ll start jamming with them based on what they see and
what they say. So how they perform and the music sound that comes out of it is unique
and something different than you could have ever done by yourself. We’re all in flow state
in one shape or form sometime. You’ve experienced it. Sports figures experience it on the field
where they describe things as opening up. The field opens. You can experience that when
— I was an old computer science guy — when I was working on a computer program, all of
a sudden I woke up four hours later having done a lot and kind of lost a sense of time.
That’s what a flow state is. It tends to — there’s a lot of skills and tools — a lot of tools
you can use to get into a flow state more frequently. We’ve done research at Yale using
FMRIs to analyze what goes on in the brain. And you can see when people are in a present
state more frequently using contemplative skills. So the skills of mindfulness, meditation,
contemplation — you can get there with yoga. You can get there lots of different angles.
You’re training your mind. And we’re actually seeing neurons, neuronal paths change in the
mind. That’s through the FMRIs, this is at the University of Wisconsin. This is through
Harvard Research. And so how can you get individuals to experience this flow state by going into
deeper contemplation, being quiet. The average number of thoughts that go through your mind
— you can actually allocate them out and a lot of different studies have gone through
it. Seventy percent of them on average are about the past. Twenty percent of those thoughts
are about the future. Ten percent are about now. So what if you could make that ten percent
larger. And that’s really what flow state’s about is dropping those thoughts. You know,
how do you drop thoughts? I don’t know how to do that. Well, by being quiet and letting
those thoughts just happen but letting them go. There’s lots of tools and techniques for
doing that and go online and check out It’s one of the companies that you can go
on and for free they’ll teach you about meditation. Or do yoga or do Tai chi or just be quiet.
Or go to your church and pray. Those are all states of contemplation and you’re training
your mind and your paths in your mind are changing. And now there’s devices coming that will allow
you to feel it. So this experience that I felt in music. You say, “Ah, I want to do
that again.” And then you can see it in your brain. There’s actually one company called
Interaxon. You put this device on your head, a headband, and it will measure brain waves.
And through Bluetooth access computer programs that allow you to train your brain in saying
oh, that’s what it feels like to be more accurate. They have little games you can play to increase,
make it more likely that you’ll be in a present state. So what if we did that for ADHD. They’re working
on it. So right now they can identify the brainwaves that identify ADHD. The FDA just
approved that. So now a lot of people are working on what if we get biofeedbacks with
children and adults don’t need the drugs that they are currently taking for ADHD. It’s a
huge application. Think of how more effective people will be if they’re able to train their
own minds. If you want to go to sleep more quickly, do that. So think how more efficient
any team was from companies to nonprofits to collaborations if individuals take ownership
of their own thoughts and become more present and we’re in flow state more frequently, we’re
all gonna be more effective.

33 thoughts on “Get in the Flow State: What Jazz Can Teach You About Collaboration”

  1. You could say the same about classical chamber music. The group becomes an organism working towards a common goal.

  2. This is awesome. I have been recommended a book called "Flow: The Psychology of Happiness: The Classic Work on How to Achieve Happiness" by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and watching this video reminded me to download it. Looking forward to get some more flow!

  3. For me big think is for instance IBM, if Jazz then for instance Miles Davis, both issues are for me quite smooth and are going into the better kind of relax … Of course is the matter of the level of advance, I would like to call myself as interested (or concerned) not professional amateur … Both music and IT are within hobbies, but I'm far away to the masters of science like Bill Gates or Bob Dylan … 

  4. Another great topic from this channel. Some of the most complicated things I have learned are done on a subconscious level. When learning a drumming pattern I might fall into it perfectly untill my conscious mind steps back in and then it's gone. Training the mind to seek a hard to define or recognize state of being one with what you're doing is difficult, but if an electronic device gave feedback I think the human brain would easily start performing in the manner that the feedback was directing it towards. That's what the brain does, wire itself to produce a given result.
     The uses of this kind of device could be very diverse.  It could potentially recognize the brain activity that steered people toward self destructive behavior like drugs or overeating and allow them to start fostering brain activity that didn't pursue a self destructive fixation.

  5. I was a raid member, in my 10 man raid.
    I didn't learn music, or music collaboration skills.
    I learned to raid and how to work together  with my
    guild to take down anything in our way.

  6. Ahhh the old ADHD monster. I thought I whipped him long ago. I've come to the realization that he went on a couple triathlons and been on a heavy work out regimen and is now ready for battle again. I think it's possible for me to win if I can focus on "right now".
    Immoff to war, wish me luck.

  7. Very interesting big think. I love the idea of being able to train our brains to do something without needing mind altering drugs.

  8. Jazz aint about neurons.  You can meditate, train your neurons with headbands, and get into a "flow state" all you want, but you still won't know nothing about playing music.  Getting a healthy, flowing brain might make you a responsible little member of society, but it's not what makes the greats great.  Dizzy didn't get out of Cheraw, South Carolina by praying and contemplating, he did it by blowing.  Art Blakey's brain could have "flowed" just as well doing boring-ass stocks, is that really what its about?  And Mingus sure as hell wasn't a team player.

  9. I've often referred to some product meetings as "jam sessions". Here's a great video talking about this type of thing in more detail. Very interesting!

  10. I think the problem of me just focusing on the now, leads me to just indulge or spend it playing video games all day. I wish my favored interests were money makers, some people have it lucky where they love work that pays them good, (and perhaps which is easy entry for them).

  11. Well done video.  I love flow and creating flow in our lives is the true key to happiness.  The information regarding neuro-feedback is a little off. Neuro-feedback for ADHD has been going on for 15 years.  

  12. So is the flow state that condition where you, not only digest what's going on the outside, call it discernment, but exteriorize it in a contextualized manner that is aligned with both the phenomenon and the subjects themselves, even though it may have nothing to do with the actual object of thought? As in take into account both the topic and the medium..

  13. be sure to check of jazz vibraphonist Steffon Harris's TED talk on jazz and cooperation.  Excellent, and very relevant to this.

  14. good morning, to be in the moment, the best leson I had was my mountain bike if you not focusing you crash, the martial arts have the same discipline, thanks enjoy the moment be well

  15. Can somebody please explain why do we need organizations like Illuminati and Masonnery on this Earth? What are their intentions? Because they definetly have some inttentions. Please explain!!

  16. Jeff Walkers mentions some numbers regarding the percentage of our time spent thinking about the past (70%), the future (20%), and the present (10%). I imagine that this comes from some sort of study. Does anyone know what the source is?

  17. Focus on what you are doing about 15-30min. without letting emotions disturb your thoughts and without letting thoughts distract your actions.

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