Miles Runs the Gurus Down: what we can learn from Miles Davis

Arthur Battram
24 April 2017

Miles Davis merely changed the face of music 4 or 5 times in his career. To be a successful jazz musician and leader is a challenge; to sustain that over more than 30 years is astonishing. He was an indifferent trumpet player and had a reputation as a difficult and arrogant performer. (His controversial personal life has also come under attack, but that falls outside the scope of this work.) Yet aspiring jazz musicians dreamt of playing with him, and all his alumni cherished the experience.

How did Miles do it? I think I know.

The answer to what can we learn from his approach can be found in the ecology of jazz in New York, in the late ’50s and the early to late ’60s, in the nature of the musical employment field at that time, and in his recruitment and HR practices, his succession planning, his learning facilitation, his responsiveness and flexibility, his focus on craft and excellence, and his focus on his key purpose.

Arthur Battram wrote a book: 'Navigating Complexity: the essential guide to complexity theory in business and management' a long time ago, which is being reissued by RedQuadrant in a new enhanced edition with bonus tracks and previously unreleased alternate takes. His next album has the working title of Consensual Communication. In addition to his solo work, he composes and plays keyboards with RedQuadrant, the well-regarded fusion outfit.