As Russell, Suzie and myself have been exploring the essence of what our Rusty Brown collaboration is all about, we often view our offering through the lens of living systems. A conversation yesterday reminded me of a short piece I wrote for a session that I facilitated at the Thriving In Uncertainty conference in Melbourne 2 years ago …   

If we embrace the idea that an organisation is a living ecosystem, rather than a mechanistic model, how would we work with that larger consciousness? Paul Plsek likens this difference to that between throwing a stone and throwing a live bird (1). The trajectory of the stone can be calculated precisely using the mechanical laws of physics. The trajectory of the bird is emergent and far less predictable! The question is whether we can genuinely embrace this shift in perspective and add a layer of living tissue to the organisational machine.

Throwing Birds_Stones

The good news is that we don’t need to abandon everything we currently do. When dealing with technical problems, we still need efficient management, expertise and best practice processes. But on their own, rational, linear and individually-generated solutions are not up to the task. It’s not enough to just bring our brains to work. We need to access and apply our whole intelligence to problem-solving, creativity and innovation, especially in the complexity of global, local social and environmental issues.

Applied Improvisation is at the heart of our offering at Rusty Brown and we know that improvisation is a key driver for business and organisational success during times of uncertainty and change. Ironically, we all know how to improvise, but most of us spend too much time planning and never get to the improvisation part. And when you look at the cutting edge of business today, the most pioneering and successful companies are moving in exactly that direction. Their leaders know that innovation comes from a careful balance of planning and improvisation. By applying improv, their people are cultivating strong relationships and are being creative with limited resources. These organisations are deeply fulfilling to work with, enrich the communities they serve and are able to thrive in uncertainty.

Since being introduced to Applied Improv 7 years ago, it’s principles have reshaped the way I facilitate, consult, parent and live life. In practice, applying improv has connected me to a deeper self, an authentic part of me that I never knew existed.

Geoff Brown

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