“If they had to wait for inspiration or a good idea, few scenes would ever begin. Players step onto the stage because that is where things are happening. They just show up. Then the magic begins.” – Patricia Ryan Madson
We make change too complicated. We seem to find endless reasons to talk more and do less; waiting for the perfect answer rather than experimenting to develop the right answer. The secret to great results is focusing on a compelling vision, adapting to changing situations, and above all, taking action. 80% of the battle is just showing up and putting yourself in a position to succeed.
Improv actors understand this principle. They live in a world of real time creation and creativity, where success depends on taking risk, being present and accepting all offers. As opposed to most leaders, improv actors spend more time working on adapting to a fluid environment than trying to control their environment through better scripts. They understand that in order to discover new lands you must be willing to loose site of the shore and embrace the unknown. In the process however, improv actors also experience the joy of discovery and create unique works of art each time they step on stage.
So how can we apply the principles of improvisational theatre to our change process?
First, don’t wait for million dollar ideas. There aren’t many million dollar ideas out there to be found and you will pass up millions of dollars in good ideas while you search in vain for the big one. Second, don’t overanalyze the obvious. Far too often we give ourselves analysis paralysis by making more out of the situation than is warranted. Improving a process is not that complicated, so don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be. “Sometimes a duck is just a duck.” Finally, don’t worry too much about where to start . When faced with the task of creating a culture of continuous improvement, trying to find the “right starting point” only wastes time. Begin with the most obvious need and focus your energy on where you can take action now. Once you take action and get your first improvements underway, you will have a more realistic perspective of both the problems and the possible solutions.
Above all, rather than worry about what might be, concentrate on what is and liberate yourself from the fear of the unknown. Focus on developing your current ideas into great ideas through experimentation, rather than waiting to think of “great ideas.” Once you take action and engage people through active participation, the path to creating the culture you want will begin to reveal itself.