Minimal structures: from jazz improvisation to product innovation

Ken Kamoche, Miguel Pina e Cunha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

266 Citations (Scopus)


This paper demonstrates how the art form jazz improvisation can be applied to organizational innovative activities, focusing specifically on product innovation. In the past, the literature on product innovation focused on well-planned approaches which followed a clearly-understood structure based on a rational-functionalist paradigm. However, it is becoming increasingly evident that this model is inappropriate in today's highly competitive business environment. A balance between structure and flexibility seems to be an appropriate way to manage the contradicting demands of control and creativity faced by organizations in highly competitive environments. Jazz improvisation provides this synthesis through the concept of 'minimal structures'. We characterize the minimal structures that allow jazz improvisers to merge composition and performance, and then proceed to apply this approach to new product development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)733-764
Number of pages32
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2001


  • Innovation
  • Jazz improvisation
  • Minimal structures
  • New product development
  • Synthesis


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