Improvisation addresses the human side of creativity and innovation. It is a people-centered strategy that improves business outcomes because it improves individual and team creativity.
Sure, processes, models, and systems govern innovation and help ensure that viable ideas make it to commercialization. But none of that matters unless people are working at their best – collaborating, coming up with great ideas, and working together.
Processes don’t matter as much as people do. After all, it’s people that design and implement processes. By focusing on helping individuals and teams be their best, improvisational techniques drive better business outcomes. Improvisation works because it enables better individual and ensemble listening, communication, ideas, relationships, and fun. And fun and play matter – they are the fuel for creative exploration and problem-solving. Play isn’t frivolous – it’s essential for competitive advantage and innovation.
Daniel Pink, author of Whole New Mind, describes the ability to play as one of the key senses critical to success in the creative age. “When you are playful, you are activating the right side of your brain. The logical brain is limited. The right-side is unlimited (186).” Improvisational tools are often the catalyst for unlocking this creativity.
Improvisation Means Business
Innovation is the ability to react in real-time to current market realities and to improvise or create ideas for better business outcomes.
Improvisation is the act of creating in the moment in reaction to others’ suggestions and to existing conditions. Anyone can create. Creativity is often associated with artistry; however, it is really about the act of creating something different, new and improved. Improvisation can be comedy; it can be creating processes, products, artwork, poetry, jazz, or other pursuits. Few innovations today are completely new; most are improvised adaptations of existing ideas.
In improvisation, the goal is to get a group of individual players to listen and support one another by building on each other’s offers such that the final outcome (scene, process, music, product, etc.) is greater than the sum of all parts.
Improvisation allows us to change our view so we see different possibilities and solutions that we previously had not considered. Successful improvisation means playing, accepting offers from others, and adapting to changing realities. Improvisation techniques allow us to see through new “lenses,” and to try new things in a safe, low-risk environment. They enable us to look at situations with fresh perspectives, invert assumptions, and break old patterns of behavior. If you changed your assumptions, you would discover new solutions.
Improvisational tools teach people to listen better, to communicate more effectively, to collaborate more fully with others (by saying yes, and! to others’ offers), and to take creative risks without forcing certain outcomes. Improvisational tools are about teaching people how to think and act differently for the long-haul.
The beauty about improvisational exercises and facilitation is that these approaches are malleable containers that you can customize with your own content once you understand how to use them. Once a company has improvisation playbooks, the tools can be used for anything with little or no incremental cost.
Improvisation IS innovation (and vice versa), so what better framework to use for creative problem-solving than one that harnesses improvisation?
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