|Improvisation and Innovation|
|Written by David McGiverin|
|Wednesday, 17 November 2010 11:47|
Improvisation and Innovation
by David McGiverin
The first time I watched improvisational (improv) comedy, I was fascinated – all I could think was, these folks are extremely intelligent. Improv comedians obviously have a lot of innate talent, but clearly have also devoted many hours to dedicated practice to hone their craft.
You’re probably asking yourself, what does improv have to do with food processing? As challenges mount in our industry, we need to start thinking about conducting business differently. Most companies know something has to change, but what? It starts with self-reflection and imagination, posing questions that will help you find a new vision, a new competitiveness and new markets. Ideas – lots and lots of ideas – fuel innovation. And from this creative chaos of ideas comes order – a new focus that will make you more effective. Traditional methods of generating ideas, such as brainstorming, can be effective – but are they good enough? Can improv stimulate the process of creativity?
As crazy as it sounds, as I was watching these improv comedians at work, it made me wonder: what would happen if a company incorporated improv techniques, and even improv professionals – into their product development, marketing or other creative processes? Would this open up entirely new creative vistas? Would it have the potential to change the deeply traditional corporate mindset? Could improv skills be useful in the food processing ideation process? I decided to do a little research on the subject and, to my surprise, discovered that someone else had already thought of the idea.
Here are the essential steps to making improv work at work, according to Michelle James, CEO of the Center for Creative Emergence:
1. Yes and: Fully accepting what is being presented, and then adding a NEW piece of information, allows the process to move forward and stay generative.
2. Make everyone else look good: The improve process frees you from having to defend or justify yourself or your position - you have a group of others who will do that for you, and you are committed to doing that for others. Without the burden of defensiveness, everyone is free to create.
3. Allow yourself to be changed by what is said and what happens: At each moment, new information is an invitation for you to react in a new and different way. Change inspires new ideas, which lead to more new ideas.
4. Co-create a shared "agenda": This principle involves the recognition that even the best-laid plans are abandoned if a better idea is presented. You and your collaborators are co-creating the agenda in real-time, in order to keep the process moving forward.
5. Be fully present and engaged: By its very nature, the improv process requires all participants to be fully present, engaged and in the moment, fueling a well spring of mutually-inspired creativity.
6. Think on your feet: Improvisational skills help enhance core leadership competencies and overall performance, including the ability to respond confidently in the moment while under pressure.
7. Seek the good of the whole: Participants in the improv process learn to think in terms of “How can I best serve this situation?" They develop a sense of when to contribute to the discussion and when to listen, when to take focus and when to give it, how to best support their fellow performers and how to best keep the momentum going. This focus on serving the larger good ensures that more creative impulses and resources are available at any moment.
The next time you decide to hold a company ideation session, try watching some improv comedy to loosen everybody up and create a free-flowing environment to encourage a flow of ideas.
Feel free to check out the www.creativeemergence.com for more ideas.