Breaking down the silos: tales from a jazz musician and management educator

Dennis, Noel Kelvin (2019) Breaking down the silos: tales from a jazz musician and management educator. [Doctorate by Public Works]

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This thesis is a critical reflection on a number of my public works in the academic arena, from my musical background and in my role as a strategic leader in two business schools. Using a combination of evocative and analytical autoethnography, I critically reflect on my roles as jazz musician and management educator and discuss how two bodies of knowledge have informed each other over the course of my career.

At the core of my works as a management educator, is the application of the jazz metaphor – largely in the strategic marketing management discipline (see my published works in this space – Dennis and Macaulay (2003), Dennis and Macaulay (2007) and Dennis (2015). Over the course of my career, though, my application of the jazz metaphor has pervaded other aspects of leadership and management discourse, including entrepreneurship, general leadership and strategic management in the broadest sense. The expansion of my application of the jazz metaphor has, in part, been informed by the workshops I have delivered to organisations over the years and, of course, my students (particularly MBAs) who have brought their experience and thoughts and allowed me to broaden my thinking beyond strategic marketing discourse.

Throughout this piece, I will switch lenses from my experience on the band stand, to my work in the classroom, through to my work as a senior leader. Over the course of the last twelve months, I have learned a great deal about myself and, of course my professional practice, as both a jazz musician and management educator, thanks to this Professional Doctorate.

First, I have realised that I have always had a deep inherent dissonance about the nature of management education that stems back to my days as an undergraduate marketing student. It was at this point – particularly at the time of researching for my dissertation, I began to see the limitations of marketing discourse when applied to the arts, specifically jazz music. Arguably, I started experimenting with the jazz and marketing theme as an undergraduate, albeit in a superficial manner.

Subsequently, then, as I developed my skills as an improviser under the guidance of jazz trumpeter - Gerard Presencer – and began playing some high-profile gigs, I began thinking about how jazz can inform (initially) marketing discourse, but as my career developed, I have broadened my outlook and indeed the application of jazz to the wider field of management. I no longer think of myself as a marketer, instead, I am a management educator – in part informed by six years in strategic leadership positions in two business schools.

Throughout this thesis, I will discuss how iconic trumpeter and thought-leader – Miles Davis – has and continues to be a major influence on my professional practice. This context statement examines how his musicianship and creativity has inspired a body of my public works – from metaphor, to leadership, to challenging the art vs. commerce debate. Additionally, I will critically reflect on my work to bring the ‘art’ back into marketing through the creation of Art and the Market (formally Arts Marketing: An International Journal), which has assisted in bringing together a global community of practice for the arts marketing community. The creation of the journal is an important piece in my career to date, and although I feel I did this perhaps too early in my career, it has none the less been an important contribution to arts marketing discourse.

There are a number of conclusions that I have drawn from this reflective exercise. First, I have come to learn that I have only scratched the surface of the application of the jazz metaphor in a business context and I have identified directions for future academic research that will inform my pedagogical practice and my jazz workshops. Second, and largely from my work as Associate Dean, I have broken out of the marketing silo and I now see myself as a management educator. I discuss some of the criticisms and limitations of management education in this thesis and I also reflect on the challenges in my role as Associate Dean and how these have enhanced my practice – academically and pedagogically. I better understand the interdisciplinary, the multidisciplinary and even the transdisciplinary nature of management education and I continue to champion this with my work in curriculum design – most recently developing a new MBA that is very much interdisciplinary in nature.

This deep critical reflection has also enhanced my understanding of improvisation and I feel I have a deeper understanding of how I play the trumpet and my approach to improvisation. My playing, I feel, has also positively benefitted as a result. The public works connected to this context statement are eclectic and a mixture of academic publications, musical performances/recordings, video footage of my jazz workshops, examples of curriculum design I have developed, with the occasional email to Miles Davis asking for his advice on matters connected to my professional practice. His inspirational reply is the perfect conclusion to the thesis.

Item Type: Doctorate by Public Works
Research Areas: A. > Work and Learning Research Centre
B. > Theses
Item ID: 26457
Depositing User: Brigitte Joerg
Date Deposited: 23 Apr 2019 09:04
Last Modified: 01 Aug 2021 05:39

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