Note: this is an adaptation of a prior post from 2012.

Improvisation in Business

Improvisation is the ultimate, adaptable “social” model of co-creation. Based on right brain techniques improvisation for idea generation is becoming more common within the enterprise. It’s an idea whose time has come as co-created ideas, products, processes, business models, and processes for example often lead to better business outcomes.

By improvisation, we don‟t mean comedy or theatrical performance. Improvisation means being
adaptable and reacting to ideas and realities as they change. It means being able to invert
assumptions about the way things should or can be done. By thinking differently, we shift the
lens through which we see challenges and solutions. The ability to improvise is about making
new things up as things change, and there is no such thing as stability when it comes to strategy.
There are two salient aspects to improvisational methods that make them ideally suited for co-creating.

First, brainstorming techniques that leverage improvisation create a powerful
collaborative dynamic for getting the best ideas “out there” for further development. These types
of exercises are built on the premise of “Yes, and” – a concept that is the cornerstone of improvisational theater. In business, this fundamental idea means accepting another‟s idea and building on top of that idea by taking it further in a collaborative, “social” way where everyone co-creates – just as scenes are created in theater. “Social” potential takes on even more potency when group collaboration is facilitated by new media technologies.

Rather than competing for individual ideas, a “yes, and” approach in business turns all individual creativity into materialized collaborative capital so that team-based problem solving yields more innovative results. Applied improvisation in business drives better human outcomes for more people because of its focus on “group.” Improvised co-creation therefore leads to better results for more stakeholders within and outside of the organization. No product, service or cultural innovation is ever brought to fruition without the collaboration of the team. Group collaboration has a multiplier effect on corporate innovation that is required for commercialization success.

The second reason improvisation-based approaches to idea generation achieve better outcomes is because they use the “creative brain.” Think about it this way: most brainstorming approaches aren’t as productive or result in as many great ideas as they could because they follow a linear approach. By contrast, improvisational techniques rely on non-linear, random associations that tap into lateral thinking – engaging the best of the right brain, the creative brain, as well. The resulting ideas are often concepts that the left (“logic”) brain alone would never have come up with.

End Part I

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