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The Mastering Chaos: The Musician's Way Series

The Successful Improvising Organisation- The Pre-Conditions


This is a set of 'pre-conditions' or working principles which are drawn from the world of the musician, particularly from those of us who are comfortable with improvisation. As you facilitate the development of your organisation, workshop, negotiation, training programme, business or team you can take these ideas on board to explore how they could work for you.


Starting with these pre-conditions in mind increases the likeliehood that whatever you are creating is much more likely to ride the storms of instability in this 'Age of Chaos'. Click on any link for more information (you'll be transferred to the Mastering Chaos website).


1. All behaviour can be perceived as a form of an improvisation.

2. Improvisational activity takes place uniquely in space and time.

3. Improvisation involves all of the senses, not merely sound.

4. All participants in an improvisation perceive the improvisation from their own unique point of view.

5. Improvisers make the best choices available to them at the time, given their unique perception of the situation.

6. Improvisation is a systemic process. All actions within the improvisational system create responses. Even a nil reaction is still a response, which means that all actions influence, even those that do not appear to elicit a response.

7. Improvisational activity is driven by intention.

8. All improvisational activities have meaning to a greater or lesser extent, however the intention behind the improvisation is not necessarily its meaning. The meaning of an improvisational act is the effect it creates.

9. Improvising decisions obey vague or ‘fuzzy laws’ which means that decisions are never completely right nor totally wrong and are usually sufficient for the purpose and for the time being.

10. In a musical improvisation there is no such thing as a wrong note or wrong input only an opportunity for further creativity. So-called ‘wrong input’ can therefore best seen as a naturally occurring ‘surprise’. Improvisations will organically adapt to the new input.

11. Improvisations can be deemed to be 'working' when they appear to be ‘taking on a life of their own’.

12. The values of a successful improvisation are adaptivity, inclusivity, flexibility, variety of choice, supportiveness and safety.

13. Improvisations may be commenced by an initial agreed ‘holding form’ which allows for the possibility that the holding form can be discarded or changed when it is felt appropriate to do so or when the improvisation ‘takes on a life of its own’

14. Improvising organisations can be trusted to create their own form or internal structure.

15. The primary task for leaders of improvising organisations is to maintain and support the group by means of the initial holding form and releasing the improvisation from the holding form when its own form emerges.

16. Effective improvisation often best occurs when judgment is replaced with discernment. As such improvisational states best occur when what appears is accepted as neither right nor wrong.

17. The person with the most improvisational flexibility within the organisation tends to lead the improvisation irrespective of their nominal position within the organisation.

18. Everyone already has all the resources they need to play a valuable part in the improvisation.

19. Simple behaviours tend be more effective than complex behaviours.

20. The ends of improvisations are unforced and are intuited by the participants. However endings don't always end - they sometimes begin.

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