Much of what happens in work, either day to day or over the length of your working life, is unpredictable. It is subject to emergence – what happens as it happens, in a space of uncertainty.
There is little value in pretending you know what the result will be when you don’t. An improvisational attitude invites you to trade the illusion of control for the reality of influence.
You often have choices of how much risk to accept. Do you take on the new responsibility or stick with what you have? Do you hire the obvious candidate or the maverick? Do you cut your losses or invest further?
As you make these choices, you feel conflicting urges. Yes, you want to keep your feet on the ground, to maintain a degree of safety. Yet you also know that greater risk can bring greater reward.
Feeling safe boosts your feelings of confidence, and that may turn into a platform from which you are willing to embrace further uncertainty.
Improvisation teaches you to feel more comfortable when dealing with uncertainty, so that you can harvest those greater rewards.
For example, improvisational activities can be nerve-racking to begin with. It’s natural to feel cautious when facing something that you have never done before.
Let’s say you go to a theatrical improvisation workshop. Typically, as you experience an improvisational activity, you discover, ‘Oh, that’s not so bad.’ You contribute, you get it and you start to participate more fully.
Soon you begin to anticipate and enjoy the uncertainty – that is what it means to be more comfortable with it. You gain the excitement, reward and adventure of playing with unknown outcomes. Then you may be inclined to transfer your approach from the practice arena to the workplace.
When you recognise that life is uncertain, you can respond by improving your ability to cope with those uncertainties. Paradoxically, by accepting less certainty, you gain more confidence.
If you’d like to learn more about how improvisation skills can help you or your team navigate change and uncertainty, please visit our training pages or contact Paul@impro.org.uk.
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