Speaker, author, jazz musician, software development manager
Adrian Cho is well-qualified to draw parallels between the worlds of business and the arts. His diverse career in business includes extended stints in consulting, research and development, finance, and intellectual property. At IBM Adrian is currently leading a strategic initiative across IBM software group brands to improve IBM’s web presence for engaging with developers. In his previous role at IBM, Adrian managed a complex, globally distributed, agile software development project coordinating contributions from over four hundred people at twenty-five locations in ten countries.
A band leader and innovative artistic collaborator, he performs as a bassist and conductor and is the founder and artistic director of the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra, a unique, critically acclaimed symphonic jazz ensemble that brings together an impressive array of professional jazz and symphony musicians. He regularly performs across multiple genres of music in formats ranging from solo bass to large ensembles and collaborates with a diverse array of music, theater and visual artists. Colleagues, clients, audiences and press have described him as "a cool guide to hot jazz," "a musical missionary," "a gifted teacher," "a visionary and true collaborator" and "an extraordinary leader."
Combining his experiences in arts and business, Adrian developed the Jazz Process, an execution-oriented framework for collaboration, innovation, and agility that can help teams in any domain improve their performance. Adrian speaks and blogs about high-performance teamwork on a regular basis. His book, "The Jazz Process: Collaboration, Innovation and Agility," has been endorsed by a diverse collection of thought leaders. Reviewers have praised the book as "a huge payback for the time invested in reading it," "a deep exploration of collaborative know-how," "a concept of leadership and teamwork that’s well suited for the Google-age workplace" and "a top pick for any business collection!"
Collaboration, innovation, agility, intellectual property, open development, jazz performance and history.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
What are the parallels between the worlds of business and arts?
"….In recent years there have been two powerful movements in the world of business. One is that creativity is increasingly valued….The other is the concept of continuous performance…."
What are your top best practices for managing complex, globally distributed, agile software development projects?
"….I like to focus more on what I call fundamental principles rather than best practices….Lead on demand….The concept of embracing diversity and using that as a means to mitigate risk….The concept of innovating, improvising and iterating….Making contributions count….Increasing engagement…."
How does your music background assist your ICT work?
"….If I were to put it in a nutshell there are two things that I feel that are important that I am reminded constantly of whatever domain I’m in….The concept of listening….The idea of selflessness or the lack of ego and it’s really the realization, the priority that the goals of the team are always more important than the goals of any one individual…."
What are the 5 key attributes of the Jazz Process, an execution-oriented framework for collaboration, innovation and agility that can help teams in any domain improve their performance?
"….Building trust and respect….Acting transparently….Maintaining momentum….Maintaining health or staying healthy….Reducing friction…."
What are the top lessons from your book, "The Jazz Process: Collaboration, Innovation and Agility"?
"….The Jazz Process is comprised of four main principles and I discuss them more in detail in the book and each principle has a chapter, but there is a special chapter in the book that is sort of jammed between Chapters five and six and it’s called Essentials of Execution….I warn about the danger of relying on best practices….Another thing that I think is important is the belief that we can learn from other domains and it’s not just art….I discuss the importance of awareness on a multitude of levels….I write a lot about what people call the ‘soft side of things’ and to me success and especially success in teams is really about people…."
What are some added recommendations for each of these areas: Collaboration, innovation, agility, intellectual property, open development, jazz performance and history?
"….Collaboration — listening, exchanging and dialoguing, valuing the team’s goals above your own….Innovation — a process of diversion and conversion thought, is something that rarely happens in isolation….Agility — a lot of people think they are agile because they go through all the motions of doing this but they actually really don’t have agility; if you want an agile organization you have to have an organization where everyone is agile and it can’t happen in silos, it has to happen throughout an entire organization….Intellectual property — if you’re not sure about something, check on it with your attorney….Open development — transparency is the first step and the second step is really engaging….Jazz performance — you really just have to get in there and do it…."
Adrian shares his views on the Why and How of business agility.
"….You have the three C’s: confusion, chaos and conflict and the agile response is to innovate, to improvise and to iterate….It’s something that is extremely hard to do and really requires a lot of cultural shifts…."
What can business people learn from practitioners in other domains such as arts, sports and military operations?
"….They are all continuously integrating….In the process of doing that ultimately you hope there is synergy present….This idea of feedback and that’s a continuous thing as well….Awareness is very important….There is a need for high quality….Two final things are being able to deliver on time and this concept of real time delivery…."
What is the value of diversity in building teams?
"….Synergy is more likely to be present when there is diversity….It is very important in innovation….Diversity is a well-known technique in risk mitigation in finance for example….In starting teams people need to think about diversity and they need to value individuality…."
It’s an interesting concept, diversity in teams, but where does it become chaos where the management of the diversity becomes a distraction?
"….This is one of the reasons why a lot of the things I talk about in the Jazz Process book, at the end I talk about the risk of using any of these things in extreme. All of this stuff has to be balanced and you have to think about how you put it into practice…."
Now on to some broader issues. What are the top challenges facing the ICT industry in 2013?
"….The economy….The geo-political conflicts around the world….Natural disasters are something that we typically can’t predict, but you can imagine a major event in some countries can have a devastating effect on supply chains….Cyber-security….Getting to consumers and being able to convert to sales is becoming increasingly hard…."
What are the top opportunities for the ICT industry in 2013?
"….I don’t have any revelations here….A lot more will happen on social platforms including content sharing, buying decisions and so forth….Mobile technology is big today and it’s just going to get bigger….Coupled with all of this is the cloud….And coupled with that is the network — as work is increasingly distributed, the network plays a bigger and bigger role….Another thing that is already happening today is this concept of smarter systems…."
Do you have any areas of controversy in the areas that you work?
"….In the ICT industry we are definitely still not there in terms of gender equality….This idea of decentralizing leadership, what I call ‘leading on demand’….You mentioned the ‘bring your own device’ movement which I think is controversial and is something that is moving very quickly….Friction and the idea of trying to eliminate frictional forces or at least reduce them….The trend towards redistributing the work globally is something that is controversial for many organizations…."
What are the top five challenges facing the world which people have to be aware of because it could affect them in their daily jobs?
"….The economy….The potential conflicts or the conflicts that are happening in the world today….Global health….We are consuming resources at an absolutely alarming rate and that is a big challenge for the world (the dwindling resources)….Poverty…."
What do you see as some of the top disruptive technologies coming up?
"….Mobile technology….The cloud, but the interface to the cloud is the browser and it is now possible for people to just use the web browser and nothing else on their desktop, and use the browser from any device, phone or tablet and be able to do all their work and have it all saved in the cloud….Three things that are on the horizon, one is (which is not a new thing) storage….Power is another thing….Related to that are electric vehicles…."
Do you feel computing should be a recognized profession on par with accounting, medicine and law with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, personal responsibility, public accountability, quality assurance and recognized credentials?
[See www.ipthree.org and the Global Industry Council, http://www.ipthree.org/about-ip3/global-advisory-council]
"….I think in theory it could be a good thing….I find it hard to believe that we could actually regulate something that would be such a fast evolving discipline….I can see the benefits of the kind of thing you are talking about but I don’t know how we would do it, in practice I think it would be very difficult…."
From your extensive speaking, travels, and work, do you have an interesting story (amusing, surprising, unexpected, amazing) that you can share?
"….This is almost a silly story and a very short story, but it’s one that has stuck with me for a very long time…."
Adrian, with your demanding schedule, we are indeed fortunate to have you come in to do this interview. Thank you for sharing your deep experiences with our audience.
Music by Sunny Smith Productions and Shaun O’Leary