Awesome Preparation Produces Awesome Improvisation

jazztrumpetFrom as early as I can remember, I have been a musician.  From elementary school all through high school I played trumpet.  One of my favorite groups to play in was the jazz band.  I don’t want to spend too much time tooting my own horn but I was pretty good.

In fact, I was so good that I got to solo on occasion.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with jazz, soloing means improvisation.  In the world of improvisation, the part isn’t written out.  The soloist has the chord changes and is responsible for knowing the notes in each of those chords and playing something that fits with the song.

One of my shortcomings as a soloist was that I opted to rely on my ear to play what sounded good and didn’t practice and study how to truly follow the chord changes.  This is what sets the great improvisers apart from the good ones.

On a recent trip to Starbucks I stepped up to the counter and quickly noticed they were out of my typical green tea.  Uh oh!  After the barista confirmed this, she quickly offered to steam their iced green tea for me and make it hot.  Thinking that was a suitable alternative, I ordered it and was not disappointed.

This barista knew everything about her product and everything that could be done with that product.  Musically speaking, she knew all of the notes in the chord changes and then improvised perfectly by creating a drink that wasn’t even on the menu.  The result of this beautiful solo act was a happy customer.

This is a great reminder that great improvisation is the product of great training and preparation.  This lends perfectly to Jeff Toister’s concept of The Magic Window where our aim in customer service training should be to get our agents to a level of unconscious competence.  In the world of awesome customer service, it ensures that our customers receive service that is always consistent with our vision and values.

What companies do you work with that do some of the best improvisation?  Can you tell that they are well trained to handle just about any change thrown at them?

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