Innovation & Institutions, Will it Blend?
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Improvisation May Be the Key to Successfully Managing Change, MIT

Improvisation May Be the Key to Successfully Managing Change, MIT | Innovation & Institutions, Will it Blend? | Scoop.it

"Key attributes for almost any organization, and SO CHALLENGING to implement: agility , flexibility, improvisation – a company’s ability to quickly change is crucial to its long-term success."


 MIT's Leadership Center weighs in via an article by professor Wanda J. Orlikowski that equates a successful company to an orchestra.   Yes, I've heard this before.  Benjamin Zander is quite compelling in his leadership videos on this very note, pun intended.


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...to allow for improvisation, CEOs need to release some control and allow employees to experiment.
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What is helpful in the article is yet another example of "letting go" as in, "sometimes, however, the conductor needs to let go and let its skilled and creative musicians lead."  Well now, MIT, yes.  And Orpheus, the conductor-less orchestra, has taught us as much.  Releasing "some control" as quoted below, is the magic sauce, in my opinion, and adding in some feedback and perspective, on lessons learned, is a part of it.


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"sometimes, however, the conductor needs to let go and let its skilled and creative musicians lead."


Yes, Orpheus, the conductor-less orchestra, has taught us as much. 


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It is always, helpful, however to review suggestions for how to create and sustain an agile, flexible, improvisational culture.  


Here are Orlikowski's tips for creating such an organization, excerpted:


  • Plan to improvise - sometimes you can anticipate change, and if you can do that, you should plan to address that change in a flexible way
  • Adapt when you cannot foresee – as business rules are changing, adapt and test on a smaller, departmental scale before making company-wide changes
  • Create a learning environment – encourage communication between your employees in different locations and departments, push everyone to learn from each other
  • Encourage flexibility – to allow for improvisation, CEOs need to release some control and allow employees to experiment
  • Improvise today for success tomorrow – create a culture of experimentation and improvisation even when you’re not experiencing extreme change in practice for when you do need to change



A companion article and video to this one is how Asst. Professor Steve Leybourne, Boston University experiences improv connected with the finance industry, creating a model and citing risk, reward in managers who surreptitiously improvise.   In his video, you'll see evidence of the "let go of micromanaging" and still how it is tentative in corporate culture.  It seems we have a long way to go to let go, but writing about those who research it is a start.  


  • Source:  http://www.scoop.it/t/innovation-institutions-will-it-blend/p/1715217458/moving-beyond-surreptitious-manager-improv-risk-reward-emerging-best-practice-in-your-org-steve-leybourne


What is your experience with creating a culture that is agile , flexible, and especially improvisational?



Photo credit:   ePi.Longo  Article source:  Chief Executive Magazine

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Moving Beyond Surreptitious Manager Improv, Risk & Reward, Emerging Best Practice in your Org, Steve Leybourne

Moving Beyond Surreptitious Manager Improv, Risk & Reward, Emerging Best Practice in your Org, Steve Leybourne | Innovation & Institutions, Will it Blend? | Scoop.it

"Managers improvise all the time, surreptitiously, outside of processes & strategies, in order to deal with compression of time & resources."  


How to make it work, Boston Univ.,  Asst. Professor views, referencing the financial industry.


My notes from the video:


Steve Leybourne covers the softer, challenging elements of work, confirming that more than ever, work is not predictable. It is doing too much, with too little, and so, managers improvise all the time, surreptitiously.  


Managers then work outside of processes, strategies, goals and plans, so there is risk.   Managers will this on your own, and expose themselves to failure.  If things go right, they will have an emerging best practice. But if they fail, then they are really exposed.    See the full Improvisation in Organizations video here.



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Successful improvisation produces better ways of achieving tasks = emerging best practice.  -  Steve Leybourne, Asst. Professor, Boston University


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The model pictured from the video features:


Three constructs: Creativity, Intuition & Bricolage (making the best of whatever resources you have at hand) from Moorman & Miner (1998.) They define improvisation as:
"the degree to which composition and execution converge in time."



Add in three more from their later research, Adaptation, Compression, Innovation (deviation from existing practices & knowledge) leading to Learning. Miner et. al. Minnesota (2001)


Leybourne lists these added three as outputs, which, in the model depicted lead to learning that is fed back into the process.   Adaptive routines are actually outputs to the next round of improvisations.


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It is doing too much, with too little, and so, managers improvise all the time, surreptitiously.

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He also covers what can go wrong in improvisation, how to build trust within a team to improvise, and dealing with ambiguity, poor specifications.


See the full Improvisation in Organizations video here.


Thanks to Sources:  Rutger Slump and Steve Leybourne,  guest speaker at de Baak about Improvisation in Organizations. He is a assistant professor at Boston University in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. letsplayinnovation.wordpress.com



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