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In a Spirit of Improvisation


It's been a while since I posted on this blog, and today my plan is to write something extemporaneous, based on a theme I have had in mind for some time. Unlike past posts, this one will be subject to minimal rewriting or editing. Any changes will be what I make "in the moment" as it were.

Thus this writing will be improvised, more or less. In my view the whole concept of improvisation is to create something on the fly, without any planning. Think of those comedy troupes that create sketches from a simple idea tossed out, which the participants must work with. I am often amazed at how quickly some comics can come up with witty comments, comebacks and heckler put-downs. Through years of training they have become like ninjas in this regard - always at the ready.

Of course jazz is the ultimate in musical improvisation and it has taken me years to fully appreciate it. Perhaps my readers already know that jazz performers are known to make their voices sound  like an instrument, and their instruments sound like the human voice. From there, the more you get into it, you start to pick up instances where a trio of players are holding a conversation amongst themselves; the soloist may be taking the lead - stating his case as it were - while the others are either responding in agreement, or sometimes interrupting or disagreeing.

I must plead guilty to setting somewhat strict agendas and schedules for myself, only to fall short in following them. Take for instance my oft-stated desire, at the beginning of each  year, to post on this blog each month. This year I again missed a few months! This will be an attempt to get back on track. In fact over the remainder of 2023 I hope to cast aside any orchestration of my posts in favor of a freer approach. We shall see how that goes.

Something I always felt to be true was that "neatness is the enemy of creativity." Think of what artists' studios look like: full of paint blotches and drips, dried clay clumps, shards of sheet metal, wood shavings and dust. Their clothes are as often messy. One reason for that is that oftentimes, great ideas can arise that must be put down immediately before they are lost; one can't wait for the perfect conditions to occur (i.e., having the right paint, brushes, pencils, other materials in place) before taking action.

It has been my habit over the years to take printed reports in progress to local cafes and edit them by hand with my trusty red pen. Lately however I have been scribbling all matter of ideas and other things in the margins, in a more disorderly manner than ever before. It's refreshing but sometimes uncomfortable. I plan to continue doing so.

How does this relate to our industry? I have often said that the annuity business has a wealth of creative minds working in it (just think of all the nifty reverse engineering that has gone on over the years!). I think that in this environment, one in which annuities are getting more attention than ever before, there's a great opportunity for those minds to introduce more innovation. They may need to go in unpredictable directions, improbable ones, and experiment with ideas that won't work out. Improvisation involves taking risks, after all. Sometimes those risky moves make for beautiful music and art, no matter how messy they start out.


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