Unexpected Disruption & Improvisation
Recently I read a story of an unexpected crisis that a friend of mine, Phil Porter had to face recently. Phil is the Founder of InterPlay, an improvisation practice, that I learned to lead some years ago.
Phil shared the story of a major disruption that occurred prior to a global event to celebrate 25 years of InterPlay. Two days before this event, unexpectedly a fire started at the Church building where one of the main events was planned. Phil immediately responded to the fire and the result of the fire. Imagine the church with no roof, ceilings caved in, gallons of water in the building, much devastation and all that was needed to be done. The InterPlayers, immediately improvised, found a new location and created new experiences for the events knowing Phil would be unable to participate.
The response at the Church to clean up the devastation was amazing.
The Global event occurred without a hitch.
Phil reflected on his response
For 25 years Phil has been intentionally practising how to improvise. He improvised seamlessly in the face of crisis and so did his fellow InterPlayers.
" Thank the universe for improvisation! I could respond more calmly and clearly and I could figure out plan B or C or D when a previous one didn't work out. And my colleagues--InterPlayers all--did what they needed to do to change course without freaking out or complaining. Different space, different equipment, different set up, but it all came together."
Is this how you respond when something disrupts your life or business?
Or, are you like most people, who are more equipped to live and work with certainty, to future plan events, control and measure activities?
What happens when a new CEO is appointed in an organisation and disrupts the way things are? People resist, tensions and emotions are heightened, people feel unsafe and there are blockages in communication. Then, the response by Managers, HR and OD is to problem solve how to deal with resistance.
This is like putting on an external band-aid, to solve an inner problem of diabetes.
We are solution solving problems that are generated by a value and belief system that are no longer relevant today.
One usual response is to say, "people need to be involved with creating their change", and, yes, they most definitely do. As a living, human, social being, freedom, and autonomy over the choices we make are principles for our success in life.
But, involvement, alone, will not solve the problem of resistance and our inability to thrive with uncertainty and disruption. Most people are equipped with the skills to plan and control, and do not have the skills to improvise, adapt and create, .....
so they will continue to resist change.
“The point is not to think outside the box but to recognise that the box itself has moved, and in the 21st century will continue to move increasingly rapidly”
We know the information explosion and technology have changed our relationship to power. We have boundaryless organisations and a society that has the freedom and tools to start movements in moments and launch new businesses outside of the status quo. AIRBNB and UBER are two often cited examples.
Some people have the skills and aptitudes to be resilient in the face of uncertainty, to not only adapt, but to improvise and create new ideas.
Others don't. This has not been the focus, until recently.
We need to intentionally learn the skill sets of resilience and creativity required for the uncertain, unpredictable world we live in.
Creativity is now thought to be the 3rd most important skill for people by 2020. That is not far away.
"Overall, social skills—such as persuasion, emotional intelligence and teaching others—will be in higher demand across industries than narrow technical skills, such as programming or equipment operation and control. Active learning, cognitive abilities such as creativity and mathematical reasoning) and process skills (such as active listening and critical thinking) will be a growing part of the core skills requirements for many industries.…."
The World Economic Forum
People who are alive and working today, went through education systems based on being educated for factory work for the industrial revolution. We have learnt how to work within systems of control, hierarchy and compliance.
There is an ever increasing need to learn to work in new ever growing diverse arrangements:
- in flat, interdependent structures, where short project work that changes frequently is more likely than long-term stable work in one team
- where there is the need to create trust quickly to be able to work within teams and across teams and change teams in one location and virtually
- where inter-dependence is more needed than independence
- where security comes from within and a strong psyche, emotional and energetic awareness
- where security comes from being a life-long learner who can scan the environment for gaps and create opportunities
- where there is the need for spontaneous, improvised responses to unpredictable events
- where diversity is recognised and accepted
Improvement and adaptation are not the same as creativity, spontaneity, and improvisation.
Improvement and adaptation are based on what exists now.
Creativity, spontaneity, and improvisation generate a new idea, a new way of being, a new practice that did not exist before.
Do you want to be ready for the age of uncertainty?
Do you want your people to be resilient and be able to improvise to disruption?
What will happen to you if an UBER or AIRBNB disrupts your industry?
What do you do to improvise?
What have you thought about when you have read this post? Please add your ideas, connect and let's keep creating new ideas together.
Deb Lange designs and facilitates Speaking Engagements, Mentoring and Bespoke Workshops in Creativity, Improvisation and the Social Skills needed for the future workplace, now.