The latest episode of The Informed Life podcast features an interview with Rachel Price, a Senior Information Architect at Microsoft. In addition to being a professional IA and teaching IA, Rachel is also a jazz saxophonist. In this episode, we discuss how opening space for improvisation can make us more effective at managing our information.

What does Rachel mean by improvisation?

[it’s] really making a series of choices about what note to play at a given time, but it’s in reaction to a bunch of other input… Improvisation is… Some sort of sensory input goes into the central nervous system at that point if the player uses all these connections in their head, schemas that they know really well, patterns that they know really well, kind of tools or tricks that they know really well, they make connections. They make a snap decision about what to play. Then they actually play it and then the whole loop starts over again. So now they’ve created sensory input for someone else or for themselves, and it’s just this recruitment repeating cycle of iteration.

This can be a helpful analogy for designers doing user research. And when managing our own personal information environments, it’s useful to have an underlying framework while being mindful of not over-structuring things.

[the] idea that chord changes are enough is so cool. Right? It’s this idea that this pretty spare framework is just enough context to allow people to communicate with each other meaningfully with some shared intention, but with enough freedom for these incredible unpredictable moments to happen as well.

I had a great time talking with Rachel about this subject. Hope you enjoy it too!

The Informed Life Episode 17: Rachel Price on Improvisation