Group Creativity: Music, Theater, Collaboration

Group Creativity: Music, Theater, Collaboration

Group Creativity: Music, Theater, Collaboration

Group Creativity: Music, Theater, Collaboration


Group Creativity explores the unique form of creativity that emerges from collaborating groups. Dr. Sawyer draws on his studies of jazz ensembles and improvisational theater groups to develop a model of creative group processes. He applies this model of group creativity to a wide range of collaborating groups, including group learning in classrooms and innovative teams in organizations.

In group creativity, a group comes together to collaboratively create in real time. The creative inspiration emerges from the interaction and communication among the members, and makes the result more than the sum of its parts. The dynamic, moment-to-moment communication among jazz musicians and improvising actors is the primary topic of the book. Sawyer explores performers' close listening and sensitivity, the submerging of the ego to the group mind, and the ways that performers work together to create something better than and different from what one solitary individual could create alone. These explorations provide insight into all forms of group creativity and collaboration.


It is Saturday night, April 24, 1993, and I have arrived at this Chicago theater to watch a performance of a cutting-edge improvisational theater group called Jazz Freddy. The actors chose this name to emphasize the similarities between their free-form style of improvisation and the musical interactions of a jazz ensemble. Tonight, Jazz Freddy will perform a fully improvised 1-hour play, in two acts separated by an intermission. The lights come up and the audience applauds as we see the 10 cast members standing in a group facing the audience. Two cast members step to the front of the stage and quiet the audience. The first asks the audience to suggest “an event, ” and someone shouts, “The Olympics. ” The second actor asks the audience to provide “a location, ” and someone shouts, “A convent. ”

The lights go down; we can see the 10 cast members walking to the sides of the stage to sit in chairs that have been placed there. One of the actors pulls a chair to the center of the stage and sits in it, facing the audience, as the stage lights come up.

Example 1.1. Lights up. We see John carrying a chair to front stage right, and he sits down facing the audience. He mimes working at a desk–takes a cap off of a pen, opens a book, starts to make underlining motions as he studies the page. He stops to rub his eyes. He then turns the page, and underlines some more. The other actors watch intently from the sides of the stage; the audience is completely quiet. After . . .

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