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 The Improvising Organization 
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Improvising
Organization

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Vladimir Dimitrov
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Centre for Systemic Development
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University of Western Sydney
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v.dimitrov@uws.edu.au
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 The Improvising Organization 
           
 
Today's rapidly changing and unpredictable environment, with which traditional management principles and practices cannot cope, demands new creative approaches. Quite interesting is the approach based on improvisation. The paper http://www.pioneerbooks.com/imporg.htm examines the essential characteristics of an improvising organization, and suggests several training exercises to develop this skill.

We know that in musical improvisation, a change in one sound calls to changes in many other sounds. This is what makes improvisation so interesting - a seemingly minor changes may turn our to have a major impact (a kind of 'butterfly effect'!)

A quite good paper on improvisation is "ORGANIZATIONAL IMPROVISATION: WHAT, WHEN, HOW AND WHY" at  ttp://www.fe.unl.pt/~jvc/Improv4w.html

Recently, the school of Management (Department of Organizational Studies, Boston College) organized a symposium on "Lessons from Theater: Beyond Metaphor", where theatrical improvisation techniques have been suggested as a tool for adopting the improvisational mindset in management. The abstracts presented at this symposium are at p://cbae.nmsu.edu/mgt/jpub/boje/theaterlessons/

The papers "Improvisation and Learning: Soul mates or Just Friends?" at http://www.fe.unl.pt/~jvc/ImprLEAR.html and "Improvisation versus Order" at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/optionality/may97a.htm are are also quite evocative while searching for new ways of organizational thinking under conditions of criticality.

Before using performance improvisation in your work with organization, it would be good to have a read how the professional actors see the power of improvisation: "Improvisation is a form of theatre in which no script is used. Instead, the actors create the dialog and action themselves, as they perform. The most popular style today is "spot" improv, in which performers get suggestions from their audience and use them to create short, entertaining scenes". More about this at http://sunee.uwaterloo.ca/~broehl/improv/index.html
 

My personal opinion is: Yes, Improvisation can lead to creative insights in organizational practice! As a matter of fact, unconsciously or consciously managers are involved in honing their improvisational skill every time when they encounter unknown and turbulent situations - even an ordinary meeting is a kind of performance, a kind of improvisation aimed at pursuing some pre-set or emergent agenda. As Masters of Arts in CCC http://www.hawkesbury.uws.edu.au/academic/socialinq/complexity/MAchaos.htm), we need to understand the power of improvisation in organizational practice and to apply when necessary in order to spur creative insights (which is vital under conditions of organizational criticality!). The warning is not to lose the sense of reality when performing! Some practitioners immerse so deeply in the art of improvisation that they start to develop distorted pictures of both reality and themselves. It is good to remember that emergent phenomena in organizational development always manifest unfolding of authentical dynamics. Life is not a rehearsal or... What do you think?

In arts - theater, music, ballet, writing, etc. we use our skill to improvise in order to enrich our own performance, to expand our own creativity, to explore new peaks in the landscape of our own self realization. Therefore, improvising is a kind of experimenting with ourselves - it serves our personal endeavors. The improvisational skill of Ella Fitzgerald in the jazz singing and Maria Kallas in the opera singing put them at the highest pedestal of performance never reached before (and still unreached today). As a result of this, that is, indirectly, their achievements have aesthetical influence on those who are interested in jazz or opera.

In organizational practice, improvisation serves the organization - it is not so much centred in me as a performer (look what a wonderful improviser am I, so please admire me!) but in the organization as a whole (look what a high degree of organizational creativity my performance succeeds to stimulate, and how much this helps the organization in the present moment of such an extreme turbulence!). In this way, the high improvisation skill of a manager has a direct influence on people working in the organization by facilitating conditions for their self realization.

 

 



 

       
 
 Vladimir Dimitrov, PhD, DSc 
           

       
 
 Centre for Systemic Development 
           

       
 
 University of Western Sydney 
           

       
 
 v.dimitrov@uws.edu.au 
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  Go to Vladimir's Home Page 
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Vladimir Dimitrov
           


 

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