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The improvisation edge : secrets to building trust and radical collaboration at work

Problem URL. Describe the connection issue. SearchWorks Catalog Stanford Libraries. Send to text email RefWorks EndNote printer.

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Harvard business review on teams that succeed. Physical description vii, p. Series Harvard business review paperback series. Online Available online. Full view. Business Library. H Unknown. All of these emotional and physical side effects result from the stress generated by any environment that keeps us from working together effectively. Conversely, when trust is in place, it creates incredible strength in individuals, teams, and organizations.

Relationships stay strong in an atmosphere of respect. Teams over-perform when they collaborate and trust that everyone is working toward a common goal. Leaders motivate when followers trust that those leaders are competent and ethical. Organizations thrive when there is trust in the adherence to goals and values. And for that matter, customers buy products because they trust the quality of a brand name.

Planes take off because pilots trust that the engineers, air traffic controllers, and ground technicians have done their jobs. And we stay in relationships when we trust that we will be cared for. And trust is the key to relationships, teamwork, leadership, and success. So how do we create trust, engage in trustworthy behaviors, and start to reap those personal and professional benefits?

They arrive without any of those common tools of theater—and yet, they perform. They create scenes, relationships, comedy, even complete one-act plays on the fly. Great improv is a lot like deep trust. Another type of improvisation occurs in jazz. Improv is the departure of a musician from the written music. Her band members are going with it, listening and contributing a bass line, a riff on the piano, or a faster snare beat based on what they hear from the soloist.


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They make it all happen in the moment. Considering that the number one adult fear is public speaking, even when delivering a prepared speech, improvisation may sound to some people like a personal horror movie. Besides, this is an utterly foreign concept to me.


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  5. How could improv possibly make a difference at work? You do improvise. Every single day. As a matter of fact, just like any profession, improvisation has a process, a set of skills, and guidelines for success. Anyone can improvise, and anyone can learn to collaborate on an extreme level. Improvisers collaborate radically—their level of trust and the intensity of their work are far above and beyond normal teamwork.

    That sort of behavior is the key to building, managing, showing, and engendering trust. Strangely enough, these concepts are intertwined in a surprising way.

    The Improvisation Edge: Secrets to Building Trust and Radical Collaboration at Work by Karen Hough

    This is true of every group of people who interact, especially in work situations. Sound like a circle? It can be, and how we choose to behave determines whether the circle spins backward or forward. We got a call to work on a branding initiative. From the outside, it looked like a very straightforward engagement. Two huge banking entities were merging and the joint leadership was smart enough to realize that they wanted a clean new brand and message rather than the mashed-up combo you normally see after a merger.

    The brand message was key; it had to identify what the new organization stood for and its value in the market. This was a complicated problem, but not a complex one.

    The Improvisation Edge: Secrets to Building Trust and Radical Collaboration at Work

    Atul Gawande is a writer who researches how we get things done. Using a brand image, sales models, workshops, charts, and graphs, we could implement a solution that would be applied ubiquitously. In collaboration with a marketing strategist, we created a workshop to be rolled out to hundreds of people, ranging from the CEO to the administrative assistants, in two different markets. We were stopped in our tracks. And this diagnosis was partly right. There were obvious problems in how the people from the two banks were communicating, which was making everyone leery about their postmerger identity.

    EGG Live! "The Improvisation Edge" with Karen Hough

    But the real, deeper problem only made itself apparent after my ensemble arrived. The banking teams did not trust each other. These people were worried, suspicious, and stressed. They lived and worked in two very different cultures and often misunderstood their new colleagues. They had never collaborated or worked together in a way that allowed them to build trust! You know your material and you are the one telling the story. Numbers and statistics tell a story.

    So tell the story showing a simple bell curve rather than cluttering the graph with numbers and tiny type. I repeat, PowerPoint is your backdrop — you are the show. When considering how to create the greatest impact, first try using devices such as storytelling, music or pictures. Then, only if you really need it, should you consider PowerPoint.

    Connect. Share. Grow

    There is far more impact in surprise, expertise and good ideas than there is in another predictable presentation. And one more thing — leave the lights up. She speaks internationally and writes on negotiation, leadership, sales, and presenting with impact, and is the recipient of the Athena Award for outstanding woman-owned business. Currently, I create and execute content- and PR strategies for clients, including thought leadership and messaging. I also ghostwrite and produce press releases, white papers, case studies and other collateral. Follow us Facebook Twitter. Share