Professional Playing – an outline (presentation in Dutch)

There was this afternoon an event at de Baak in the Netherlands called “Profesional Playing“, which gave an overview of different methods and metaphors of the use of playfulness in business practice. I was asked to provide some kind of an outline at the beginning, and made one with the use of Knovio because I couldn’t be there as I’m staying in Boston at the moment. Please have a look at it, and play the game that’s part of it.  

I got the feedback from a viewer who said the story made it really clear to her that she didn’t want to become a manager, and that they could use the mindset for another reorganization…That’s why I’m always curious what people think; it’s always something unexpected!

My apologies that it’s in Dutch! It’s such a beautiful language…

The link between Innovation and Improvisation

An increasing number of professionals is trained in improvisation skill and mindset. It helps them to play with their environment instead of controlling it. Improvisation could therefore be an interesting part in dealing with the process of the Innovation Game. Innovation is just like improvisation: “The act of introducing something new” (the American heritage dictionary).

Applied Improvisation
Improvisation has a background in Jazz and theatre. Jazz musicians play a certain piece (for instance Take Five), and improvise along the way. Improvisation actors take it to the next level by asking their audience for input. They use this to create completely new stories, songs and games. The optimal co creation with the customer. You could say that they are innovators on stage. Applied Improvisation or Business Improvisation refers to the translation of these capabilities to the professional business workspace.

The rules of improvisation
So how do they do it? For the reader that never has seen improvisation theatre: please have a look at this short scene from the American improvisation group ‘Who’s line is it anyway’.

You could say that they are dealing with a difficult and unexpected environment: two old ladies which do everything wrong. They are capable of creating a wonderful scene for their audience anyway by following the basic rules of improvisation:

  1. Accept the situation as it is. You could wish that your environment would be different (and probably better), but the simple fact is that it is as it is. So just accept it, and see the possibilities.
  2. Add something to it. Act. Add what is needed to the current situation. So if there is nothing, just start by doing something and add to it what is logical. Follow your intuition, because most people get stuck in thinking. To make a link to innovation: “creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things” (Theodor Levit).
  3. Make the other shine. Enjoy what your partner, customer, or fellow actor is doing and help them to make it even better. So don´t focus too much on yourself or what the other could have been better in your opinion
  4. Stay in the here and now. Everything that you need is here and now. This is also called bricolage. Be prepared for what is coming, and stay focused on what is happing. “The past is history, the future is a mystery and Today is a gift. That is why we call it the present”.

When I meet improvisers from all over the world (Applied Improvisation Network), it strikes me that they are very open for new things. Most of them act as entrepreneurs because they like to create new things and are able to cope with uncertainty. They learned this by playing jazz or improvisational theatre. I think therefore that making the connection between arts, science and business is interesting for innovator. I guess is that most of them already do this in their own way.

Let’s play innovation: Go to Start!

In search of the game Innovation
This website is in search of a practical description of the  game we call Innovation. I follow the assumption that it would be useful to look at innovation as a game played between ‘professionals’. Who are the main players, what cards are used, what does the playing field look like, how can you cheat, how can you win, when do you lose? The outcome is hopefully a simple visualization of this innovation game that helps `professionals` to play.

In my work as an executive development trainer I found that almost every subject could be looked at as a game that people play. Political games, the game of negotiation, war games, the black-sheep-game, conflict games, etc. etc.  Even this blog is a game. Together with students I described some of these interaction games, and it helped them and myself to look at apparently complex systems in a more simple and therefor accessible way.

Keep it simple
People get stuck in complex systems. They don’t know what is the best thing to do. On the other hand is my experience that a lot of people make simple things (most of the time unconsciously) complex so they don’t have to choose. I for instance thought it was very complex which new laptop to choose… “It is so complex, there is much to choose, which processor do I need…”. Bottom line is that we are afraid of something, like afraid to fail or being excluded by the group. This is nothing different in innovation where you have to become visible with your new idea, and failure is more likely than in normal processes. So, let’s approach Innovation as a game that people play, don’t take it to personal, and look at failure as a step on the game board. Next round is for you!

Be a participant
Hundreds meters of books have been written about Innovation; the only problem with books is that you have to read so much and afterwards I personally forget most of it. Games on the other hand help you to feel the flow of a process, and make you an active participant. I get active by visualizations, music, funny models, games, and examples. They make me creative. I will therefor try to approach interesting innovators and ask them to approach the Game of Innovation with the use of images, self-made models, etc. I will combine this with my stay in Boston, the innovation hub of the US! My personal rule will be to keep it simple, because we don’t want to get stuck in complexity nor in high ego.

So let´s play innovation, and I welcome you as an active participant to this website. Share what is needed, and make simple what is to complex. Roll the dice and have fun!