Win, lose, create!

I had many thoughts this morning while reading the HBR article “Winning, Losing and Collaboration”

Philosophically can we approach these important issues about what environment is needed to maximize collaboration without the notions of winning and losing?

When teaching beginner improv students to do two person “yes and” scenes the critical direction is “don’t argue, cooperate”. Cooperation is where creativity resides. Improv is a tool that can help organizations learn the skills to collaborate and thereby (hopefully) build with each other and create, irrespective of winning or losing.

The gratification, fun and challenge in the workplace might just reside in the joy of creativity rather than the desire to “win”.

Applying improvisation

Yesterday I attended an all day workshop with the New York Chapter of the Applied Improvisation Network (AIN).  Not surprisingly I found myself surrounded with a generous, intellectually stimulating and playful group of professionals who apply improvisation in a number of settings – corporations, education and mental health.

Sue Waldron, of ImprovWorks! in the Bay Area gave a wonderful presentation on the breadth of the field – here are just some of the areas in which improvisation is being applied in the workplace:

Leadership, change management, sales, customer service, team building, community development, creativity and innovation, living the brand/brand management, corporate culture/transformational change, coaching, diversity, agility/resiliency, networking, facilitation skills, train the trainer (T3), burn out prevention, stress prevention, doctor/patient relations, substance abuse prevention.

One company that was mentioned that uses improvisation for collaboration in their corporate culture is Pixar – and what wonderful results they’ve had!  I did a quick Google search and found Pixar’s essential principles:

Accept any offer: when given a new idea try and work with it. Dismissing it causes the idea to be lost.

Make your partner look good: don’t extend work on the basis of making it better, think of it of adding value.

These are wonderful principles for any organization to embrace; they are basic building blocks of good improvisation and good theatrical collaboration.


Like many Broadway theatre-goers I’ve been following the ups and downs of the current production of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Today Julie Taymor has “stepped aside” – a good moment to ponder what collaboration and vision mean in theatre, in business and in the business of theatre.

Theatre is a highly collaborative cultural form – one of the many things I love about creating theatre.

Although we are not truly privy to all that has transpired in this production it does appear that Taymor’s “vision” trumped collaboration – and in the end that was her undoing. Something worth reflection.