Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Bringing Improvisation to the Workplace

According to Patricia Ryan Madson, author of Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up, an effective way to improve your business to take a fresh look at what and how you are doing in your business.

Learn to work with situations that used to be interpreted as mistakes in a new light. Improv consultants can help alter a work environment by creating novel situations and encouraging individuals to react in new ways. This addition of humor and decrease of the fear of making mistakes can help reduce tension in the workplace. Ms. Madson and other improv consultants, including a team out of Portland, OR, called On Your Feet (, are hoping to create "'a culture of 'yes.''" Developing a culture of yes can allow entrepreneurs to consider ideas that they previously may have discarded. Often "'happy mistakes'" can occur when one idea opens the door to another pathway of thinking.

Robert Poynton, a co-founder of On Your Feet said "'if anything, we know rather less about what is coming next, and how it will affect us, than our ancestors did,'" in "A Turtle and a Guitar Case: Improvisation and the Joys of Uncertainty." The On Your Feet site also refers to a "'cool mistake,'" something seemingly negative that has a positive outcome when interpreted in a different light.

As all business owners know, even the best made plans can fail. According to Ms. Madson, "improvisers avoid spinning their wheels because they see quickly what isn't working, or simultaneously, what might be successful that didn't occur to them at first. Improvisers, by definition, take risks and make mistakes, lots of them, but that's what leads them in fresh directions.'" Ms. Madson acknowledges that this change away from structured planning can be difficult; however, she suggests that this method can still help your business move forward.

Mike Kwatinetz, a venture capitalist who is co-founder and general partner at Azure Capital Partners in Palo Alto, embraces improvisational thinking as a way to get companies moving. This way you are reacting to what is happening around you and making appropriate changes and improvements.

Build a stronger business by letting go of the future.

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