Improv For Leadership


Strategic planning has its place in a firm’s structure, but often it is unproductive or less effective than improvisation. Does this mean we should throw strategic planning out the window? No, rather we should look at improvisation as informal strategic planning because that is exactly what you are doing when improvising. Applied improvisation for leadership allows leadership at all levels of an organization to work toward the goals of the firm that are laid out during the strategic planning phase while also being flexible on the fly to new, in the moment, information. This flexibility adds to the value of the leader because they can respond quickly to issues that were not present or planned for during the strategic planning phase.

By building in applied improvisation for leadership in your organization, you are strengthening the overall position of your leaders and the organization. Training your leaders to realize your organization’s goals and strategies on a day-to-day basis will increase the likelihood of your goals being reached. The unexpected, when unprepared for, can be disastrous to any organization’s goals. However, with a team of leaders who have been trained in applied improvisation techniques, your organization will be more flexible and limber when the unexpected occurs. Having this flexibility to manage issues as they occur will position your organization to better respond instantly, giving your firm an edge above your competition.

A leader can make or break an outcome. We know that in any business, leaders are often the ones who hold the deciding factor if an outcome becomes a good outcome or a bad outcome. They are the ones entrusted to decide, often in the moment or with little to no notice, what direction their teams should take. With the skills learned from applied improvisation like collaborating under pressure, being prepared for the unexpected, being flexible during emergencies, and leading a team in the moment, leaders can think with vision when deciding what direction their teams should take. Leaders who have this training and are prepared for the arbitrary are better prepared for the unpredictable and are more likely to direct the firm and their teams toward a positive outcome. This is because they have the knowledge and understanding of improvising when issues come their way. Making the right choice can make or break a project and even an organization’s success. The wrong choice often has lasting impacts on an organization.  Using the skills provided through applied improvisations can decrease the chances of a leader with this skill of making the wrong choice.

Leaders who are trained and practiced in dealing with issues that arise in an organization with logic and rational decision making rather than entrusting their intuition have more successful outcomes. When you combine the intuition of a leader with the skills and knowledge of improvisation, the outcomes are often even more successful. First, using the improvisation skills to develop a plan and then secondly reviewing the plan through rational thought and the experience of the leader yields the most positive results. Now knowing that adding the skills of applied improvisation to the leader who is experienced with using their strengths of rational thought and intuition bring about the best results, it is time to learn and grow those needed skills.

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Evidence and Research Citation used in writing this article:

Applied improvisation training for disaster readiness and response: preparing humanitarian workers and communities for the unexpected:

Organizational improvisation and leadership-a field study in two computer-mediated settings:

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