Creativity was identified as the single most important attribute to future business success in a study that interviewed over 1,500 CEOs from 60 nations and 33 industries (IBM, 2010). A range of different agencies are employing techniques that actors and improvisers use to create believable characters and scenes to both explore and create business opportunities and ideas.
Businesses are increasingly using design thinking (a human-crentred, prototype driven process) as their innovation platform, superseding some of the research practices in this area. As organisations embrace design thinking practices, market research risks being locked into twentieth century forms of focus groups and surveys. “Co-creation is not asking the “consumer” what she wants. That’s a focus group.” Morgan Gerard (Idea Couture).
Courage to dream
“I start where you leave off. You meet people in the artificial setting of your office. I meet them on the street and in their home, in their natural surroundings. You analyse their dreams. I give them the courage to dream again. You analyse them and tear them apart. I let them act out their conflicting roles and help them to put the parts back together again.”
Roy Langmaid in a post ‘Psychology on a Page’ began with this quote. Jacob Moreno (founder of psychodrama) stated he said this to Freud after a lecture. Langmaid, who co-wrote the original text on qualitative with Wendy Gordon, and now facilitates creative sessions, writes a very interesting set of blog posts which start here about his journey from running focus groups to facilitating creativity sessions.
DD + D are an example of a theatre-based design consulting company. The use of theatrical skills and tools is not only used in the UK and the US. Teresa Norton is a management consultant based in Hong Kong who has pioneered effective, theatrically directed, group training. Teresa Norton discusses in this HBR blog post how she takes her theatre training into workshops with clients in Asia.
More than comedy
Improv is not only effective for actors but also for people in business. People often associate improv with comedy, partly due to popular comedians and television programmes. (Whose line is it anyway, Tina Fey). Questions on its relevance could include: we are not actors, we are not comedians and surely this is just for teams of extremely talented people who make it up on the spot. Robert Poynton, in his excellent book ‘Everything’s an Offer,’ notes that while improvisational theater may seem a far cry from modern business but in fact it is highly relevant. Improv offers a different way to engage with and respond to the complexities and uncertainties of leading organisations into an era when creativity and change are of paramount importance. Still wondering about the relevance of improv to business.
Ian Gotts & John Creme have compiled an excellent ppt deck which contains the experiences of how leading practioners are using improv in the business environment.
Part of the future
Design agencies are utilising improv in their creative work. Nathan Waterhouse, a lead at OpenIDEO, has released Design Improv. Liz Danzico and Elizabeth Gerber both well-known at design industry conferences, with academic publications on design and improvisation, state: “Both [improv and design] engage in solving a problem while creating or discovering something new within a given set of constraints”. The presentation below by Frog shows how improv can blend with gamification which is becoming part of the business skill set.